When you have fast guys and if we’re in shape and execute well at a fast pace, it’ll hurt the (opposing) defense in a large way. —Dres Anderson
SALT LAKE CITY — As the first practice of fall camp concluded Monday morning even Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham admitted he has his eye on the quarterback competition and seeing where it goes.
Whoever lands the job, Whittingham said he believes that quarterback will have a quality group of targets to throw to.
“Overall, we’re much improved,” he said, about the receiving corps. “(It’s) a whole different look than what we were in spring.”
Senior Dres Anderson returns after leading the team in receiving last season. The speedster caught 53 passes for 1,002 yards and seven touchdowns. The Utes also get back a healthy Kenneth Scott, who suffered an ankle injury in the first game last year and sat out the rest of the season.
The Utes have added more speed at the position, too. Junior college transfer Kaelin Clay is among the receivers expected to be in the mix to catch passes this year.
Yet one of the Utes' largest offseason additions was that of new offensive coordinator Dave Christensen, who brings a more fast-paced offensive scheme with him. It also means each of the receivers have to acclimate themselves to the new scheme.
That being said, Anderson said he believes the transition has gone well to this point.
“I feel good about it. All the players got the offense down pretty well,” Anderson said. “Even the (slot receivers) are working at it still, but they’re getting it down pretty fast. The offense has been good, it’s been consistent; it’s been fast. We just need to make sure we’re in shape and we can execute well.”
Of the returning receivers, Anderson has been the focus of plenty of preseason attention. He landed on the Biletnikoff Award and Maxwell Award watch lists and was a representative of the Ute players at the Pac-12 Media Days a few weeks ago.
While he has received the attention, Anderson said having Scott back is a giant boost to the Utes' receiving corps.
“He brings everything,” Anderson said. “He brings leadership, passion, great ball catcher, good size, he’s got good speed. He’s the full package at receiver.”
Whittingham echoed those sentiments after practice, too.
“Scott gives us a big boost from not only an ability standpoint at wide receiver, but a leadership standpoint,” Whittingham said. “He’s one of the team leaders without a doubt. The guys respect him. He’s one of the more popular guys in the locker room. He’s a presence that we missed last year and we’re excited to have him back.”
As for the ankle injury that sidelined almost all of his 2013 season, Scott said his ankle is at “200 percent” heading into camp this year and he’s confident it won’t be an issue in the coming weeks heading into the season.
“It’s really good. I feel like I’m faster than I was — more explosive,” Scott said. “It’s just been what I’ve been working on in the offseason. I feel really good.”
Meanwhile, Clay is one of the newcomers on the Utes' radar this season, and he said Monday has still has a lot to prove on the field.
“I have a role on this team,” he said. “These guys are proven and I’m not proven yet. I have to come in and earn my spot, so my whole job is to come in and complement this team.”
Wallace Gonzalez is another potential target the eventual Utes quarterback will have this year. Gonzalez, a late add to the fall camp roster, spent three seasons as an outfielder in the Houston Astros organization, but now has a shot to catch some passes with the Utes this season.
“That’s a guy that’s very intriguing,” Whittingham said, about Gonzalez. “He’s a guy to keep your eye on during fall camp to see how he develops because he has a ton of ability.”
The main objective for the team this season is return to a bowl game, but Scott said the receivers can do their part to help the Utes reach their goal by making sure the offense is moving the chains and keeping drives alive.
“I believe that was one of the things we struggled with last year,” he said. “It was either big play or no play. I believe if we move the chains and keep the drives alive, we’ll be a lot better than what we were.”
However, with a speedy corps and a quick new system, Anderson added he thinks the Utes have the potential to do damage this season: “When you have fast guys and if we’re in shape and execute well at a fast pace, it’ll hurt the (opposing) defense in a large way,” Anderson said.