SALT LAKE CITY — As star wide receiver Britain Covey mulls over whether or not to take a redshirt year, Utah’s wide receivers have stepped up.
Through five games, Utah has found success in the “throw game,” as Ute head coach Kyle Whittingham calls it. Utah has racked up 1,184 passing yards so far and in its last game against Washington State, had more passing yards than the Cougars and their famed Air Raid attack.
Covey, usually Utah’s go-to receiver, was out against Washington State and has just 77 yards on the season, so the Utes have had to have others step up. Wide receiver Bryan Thompson has been impressed with Utah’s receiver depth so far.
“To be honest, I feel like we’re a deep enough group to where it’s no fall-off to when he goes out. He’s very missed in our group, but I don’t think it’s a fall-off at all,” Thompson said.
Thompson has emerged as one of the stars of Utah’s receiver corps after playing in just four games last year. Thompson leads the team with 310 receiving yards, including an 82-yard score, and two touchdowns.
“This year has been very exciting and a lot of fun just to be able to catch the ball and score touchdowns again, especially catching balls from a great quarterback. That’s always exciting,” Thompson said.
Samson Nacua has filled in at Covey’s position, turning in an impressive performance in the Washington State win. Nacua entered that game with just two receiving yards on the year, but finished the WSU game with 90 yards and a touchdown.
“I’ve always thought of my role as the guy that’s willing to do whatever it takes to help this team win. When Covey was here, including last year, I was able to block a lot and help Cov get what he needs to get and I was also able to make catches when I needed to,” Nacua said.
“This year, same thing. Whatever they need me to do, I’m just going to be willing to do to help this team get where we need to get.”
Jaylen Dixon (154 yards on the year), Solomon Enis (92 yards), Demari Simpkins (91 yards) and Derrick Vickers (82 yards) have all contributed to the wide receiver corps this year.
“We have weapons every week that he can bring out,” Thompson said. “He (offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig) has a lot of tools in his arsenal, so we’re just getting started.”
Ludwig has been a big part of the passing resurgence at Utah, showing off his creativity while drawing up passing plays.
“What he does to set up everything is just unreal. Us receivers don’t really see it a lot, what he’s trying to do, but when the play comes and we make the play, then we see, ‘Oh crap, he set it up perfect by running that play earlier, that block play earlier helped me set up there,’” Nacua said. “It’s just crazy to see how good of an offensive coordinator he is.”
“He knows so much about the game from so many years of just being around. He knows so many defenses and what they do and how to counter it,” Dixon said.
Another big reason for the success of the WR group is quarterback Tyler Huntley, who has proved to be one of the best quarterbacks in the Pac-12 and ranks No. 10 in the nation in ESPN’s quarterback rankings with a total quarterback rating of 83.5.
Huntley has been accurate so far in 2019, among the leaders in the nation in accuracy. Huntley has completed 74.6% of his passes, ranking sixth in the nation.
“For him to step up like this his senior year is just amazing to see. It’s great to be a part of it, to see his growth and his progression and his leadership skills keep growing,” Nacua said.
“It’s exciting to see how he’s grown from last year. He’s a great leader, he’s been mentoring everyone,” Enis added.
As Utah prepares to play Oregon State on Saturday, the receiver group will be a prominent part of Utah’s game plan.
“I think we need to keep doing what we’ve been doing. Keep preparing how we always prepare. Tough team, physical, just catch the ball,” Thompson said.
No. 15 Utah (4-1, 1-1) at Oregon State (2-3, 1-1)
Reser Stadium, Corvallis, Ore.
Saturday, 6 p.m. (MT)
TV: Pac-12 Networks
Radio: ESPN 700AM