It's about midway through fall football camps at Utah and BYU, and we've seen enough to tag talent on the rise.
The Cougars open up against Northern Iowa at home, while the Utes travel to the Big House to take on legendary Michigan. Kickoffs are in less than two weeks.
Here are top-five lists of "Players on The Rise" in both camps. The analysis comes from our staff observers at both Ute and Cougar practices.
1. WR David Reed, 6-0, 184 junior: Reed appears to be the JC investment Kyle Whittingham was looking for when the Utes plucked him out of Pasadena City College. He came with high expectations and, midway through camp, he's lived up to most of them. Athletic, poised and confident, they've shuffled him over to returning kickoffs as an added bonus, just to keep him on the field.
2. QB Brian Johnson, 6-1, 200, senior: Johnson is healthy for the first time in two seasons, and it shows on his deep passes, control of the offense and leadership. The Ute staff can't stop dropping his name after every practice because he has been such a key, and knowing he's ready and capable completes the picture on offense.
3. RB Darrell Mack, 6-0, 220, senior: Mack didn't need any head start in a battle to fend off Matt Asiata, but he got it when Asiata's sore ankle slowed him down. All Mack did is step up and take charge and is now considered the clear starter. Mack has unquestionably ended the competition, confirmed by Whittingham on Saturday.
4. DE Paul Kruger, 6-5, 265, sophomore: Considering where Kruger was a few months ago, a stabbing victim, the talented QB chaser has adequately stepped in where he left off as a rookie starter, then elevated his game a few notches. Easily stands out in practices as a force to be reckoned with.
5. SS Joe Dale, 5-11, 197, junior: Missing hard-hitting tackler Steve Tate? Plug in Joe. The Defensive MVP of the Poinsettia Bowl is looking more and more like a Tate clone who is proving he's not only capable but clearly the best candidate to replace Tate and be a star alongside Robert Johnson as Utah's final line of defense tandem.
Utah's Biggest Surprise of Camp: If it isn't the frustrating soap opera of not getting 6-4, 209-pound JC transfer receiver Aiona Key in camp, the opposite feeling by staff and teammates would have to be the work and performance of former Grand High star Zane Taylor, who has a stranglehold on the starting center spot. Big, stout and strong, Taylor simply took over the job.
1. WR Michael Reed, 6-1, 202, senior: Often overshadowed by Austin Collie, Reed's work ethic, consistency and example has set the tone for that position in fall camp. Unquestionably he'll finish his career with the best season he's ever had.
2. LB Matt Ah You, 5-11, 227, junior: Coaches were looking for a physical presence to compliment Shawn Doman and Matt Bauman and, low and behold, Ah You started pushing Doman and within a week earned the starting spot. A tough hitter, Ah You accepts the role as an enforcer in the middle.
3. WR Luke Ashworth, 6-2, 195, sophomore: Any time a missionary returns and can step in and make a difference, it's a bonus for the Cougars. Ashworth has made the most of his time while Austin Collie nurses a stress fracture. Big, fast and sure hands.
4. SS Andrew Rich, 6-3, sophomore: An All-American at Snow College last fall, inside seven months on campus, he's delivered as promised. If BYU played a game tomorrow, Rich would start in the secondary and is physical enough to compliment what Jaime Hill wants in his defense.
5. RB J.J. DiLuigi, 5-9, 199, RS freshman: The MVP of the California Bowl has significantly stepped up his game and is clearly the man behind star Harvey Unga, and his readiness looks like it will enable offensive coordinator Robert Anae to keep Unga rested over the course of a season because DiLuigi can handle quality carries.BYU's Biggest Surprise of Camp: There are three leading candidates Snow College linebacker Coleby Clawson, freshman O'Neil Chambers and sophomore kicker Mitch Payne. It should go to Payne because, after healing up his injuries, he looks nothing like he did a year ago.
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