SALT LAKE CITY — Of all the positions on the offense, receiving corps is where the Utes have to be the most confident as they head into fall practice.
It all starts with senior receiver Dres Anderson (6-foot-2, 190 pounds), who has been on the national radar all preseason. Anderson landed on the Biletnikoff, Maxwell and CFPA wide receiver award watch lists. Anderson landed on all Pac-12 honorable mention list last year after leading the Utes in receiving, while Kenneth Scott (6-3, 208) returned from injury.
The receiving corps is filled with speed and size, and the hope will be not to rely solely on Anderson.
Anderson led the Utes last year with 1,002 yards receiving on 53 catches (18.9 yards per catch), while Scott returns after missing last year with an ankle injury. The junior caught 32 passes for 360 yards and three touchdowns in 2012 and figures to break out alongside Anderson.
Aside from the top two returning receivers, the lightning-quick Delshawn McClellon (5-9, 169) figures to be a threat, as does Dominique Hatfield (5-10, 175). The two sophomores have the potential to break out big plays. Senior Geoffrey Norwood (5-8, 175) also returns. Norwood caught 13 passes for 173 yards last season.
Senior Westlee Tonga (6-4, 252) and sophomore Siale Fakailoatonga (6-3, 251) each return as tight ends, trying to replace the production lost by the outgoing Jake Murphy. The pair combined to make four catches for 46 total yards, while Murphy caught 25 passes for 417 yards and five touchdowns last season.
However, both Tonga and Fakailoatonga can provide a security blanket for the quarterback. Freshman Harrison Handley (6-4, 250), who redshirted last year, could also play a factor at tight end this year.
Senior Kaelin Clay (5-10, 188), a junior college transfer, has one year of eligibility with the Utes. The speedster projects as a possible third receiver behind Anderson and Scott. He can also help on special teams, as a kickoff and punt returner.
Incoming freshmen Kenric Young (6-2, 180), a three-star recruit from Gainesville, Florida, and Raelon Singleton (6-3, 190), a three-star recruit from Crosby, Texas, both project to bring size to corps.
With Anderson on all the watch lists, defenses may fail to overlook Clay — the junior college transfer from Mt. San Antonio College. Clay was a touchdown machine there, finding the end zone 16 times last year in the junior college ranks.24 comments on this story
However, his speed is what can make him into one receiver to look out for. The speedster projects well as a possible slot receiver or returner on the special teams, but coaches believe he can play outside too.
All eyes will be on Anderson, who has the potential to end the year as the top receiver in the conference. However, the Utes project to be a much faster team on the field this year than in prior seasons. The experience at the top of the depth chart could play a factor this year.