Quantcast

Commentary: Utah may have come upon a famine of defensive backs

Published: Sunday, Aug. 4 2013 2:55 p.m. MDT

Justin Thomas works to get free during University of Utah football practice in Salt Lake City, Thursday, April 18, 2013. (Ravell Call, Deseret News) Justin Thomas works to get free during University of Utah football practice in Salt Lake City, Thursday, April 18, 2013. (Ravell Call, Deseret News)

Where did the famine come from?

Recent years have seen former Utah defensive backs Brice McCain, Sean Smith, R.J. Stanford, Brandon Burton and Conroy Black enter the NFL. Even after last year’s losing season, cornerbacks Moe Lee and Ryan Lacy, as well as Reggie Topps — the latter a nickel back for the Utes in 2012 — inked free-agent deals with teams from the best league in the world.

But the Utes shouldn't get too thirsty for quality defensive back play from Utah this season — they might only need to Rowe their boat to survival.

With star senior Brian Blechen’s shift to linebacker, the Utes may be parched in experience in defending the pass. They now face the reality of having just one consistent starter among five secondary positions returning this year. But that leader, junior Eric Rowe, may be the next in line among great Utah defensive backs — even worthy of the level achieved by a certain Utah star of the same first name.

Utah's Eric Rowe during practice Tuesday, March 26, 2013 at Rice Eccles Stadium. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News) Utah's Eric Rowe during practice Tuesday, March 26, 2013 at Rice Eccles Stadium. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)

But don’t let that make your thirst be quenched for a deeper defensive backfield — especially at the cornerback position. Blechen’s shift reportedly was made possible because of the coaches’ confidence in their safeties alongside Rowe. It won’t matter nearly as much, though, that Utah’s defensive line may be similarly equipped as last year’s, or that the addition of Blechen makes for a great linebacker unit, or even if Rowe anchors a strong trio of safeties, if quarterbacks like UCLA’s Brett Hundley, Arizona State’s Taylor Kelly and Utah State’s Chuckie Keeton can throw over them without worry.

The following list includes players expected to provide a reservoir of ability.

Rhett Wilkinson is a project manager for UtahPolicy.com and hails the true-blooded Aggies from Utah. The co-founder of magazine Aggie BluePrint.com, he's been an intern for the Deseret News and other publications. rhett.wilkinson@usu.edu | @wilklogan

Copyright 2015, Deseret News Publishing Company