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Consistency in Utah's new offensive system the priority for the Utes' wide receiving corps

SALT LAKE CITY — It has been the goal of every single offensive position group at the University of Utah this spring — learn the system of new/old offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig.

Sure, Ludwig has said time and again that he will and does cater his attack to the players on his roster.

Standouts like Britain Covey and Tyler Huntley have echoed that through the opening two weeks of spring football.

And yet, it is still a new system.

Utah’s wide receiving corps is well aware of that fact, and learning that system has been one of the overarching themes of spring ball.

“We are learning a new system,” wide receivers coach Guy Holliday said. “We want to get it done right. That is what we are trying to do.”

“There is an adjustment,” added sophomore wide receiver Solomon Enis. “We want to get the playbook down and we are working to get the playbook down.”

Head coach Kyle Whittingham is in lockstep with that idea to the point that he enumerated that his main goal for his offense this spring is, you guessed it, to learn the new system.

“We have to finish off the offensive install,” Whittingham said. “It is coming along, but they have to be exposed to all of that.”

As far as the Utes’ wide receivers are concerned, however, learning Ludwig’s system is only the beginning.

More important for the likes of Covey, Demari Simpkins, Samson Nacua, Jaylen Dixon, Enis and Bryan Thompson, to name a few of those expected to contribute this fall, is consistency within that system.

If there was a failing for last year’s wide receivers it was a lack of consistency.

The final statistics for the year show a solid enough receiving corps — there were no 1,000-yard pass catchers, but Covey tallied 637 yards on just 60 receptions. Dixon added 589 yards receiving, while Nacua led all pass catchers with five touchdown receptions. Simpkins had his moments as well, as did Enis — but rarely did multiple receivers have standout performances in the same game, let alone in consecutive contests.

It is for that reason that the goal this spring is to become consistent.

“I want to be more consistent,” Enis said. “With my route running, with getting in and out of my breaks. That is pretty much it, the goal for spring — being more consistent.”

“We want to be better than we were last year,” Holliday added. “That is the whole thing. We want to be better technicians and we want to pick up the new system. We want to get it done right.”

Through two weeks of spring practice, things are on the up and up as far as that is concerned.

“I think today went real well,” Holliday said following last Thursday’s practice. “We did better. I think we are picking it up.”

Utah Utes wide receiver Solomon Enis catches a touchdown pass with USC Trojans cornerback Isaiah Langley defending during NCAA football in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Oct. 20, 2018.
Utah Utes wide receiver Solomon Enis catches a touchdown pass with USC Trojans cornerback Isaiah Langley defending during NCAA football in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Oct. 20, 2018.
Ravell Call, Deseret News

Holliday has been particularly pleased, even pleasantly surprised by the performance of a freshman walk-on named Devaughn Vele.

In fact, of all the spring performers none has exceeded Holliday’s expectations for them save Vele.

“Only one has, Devaughn Vele,” Holliday said. “He is a walk-on and we didn’t expect anything from him when he showed up, but he is contributing. He is a good player.”

More familiar names have also taken steps forward this spring, however, including Simpkins.

“Demari Simpkins has really stepped up,” Holliday said. “I am looking for a good year from him.”

Thompson, Tyrone Young-Smith, Derrick Vickers and Enis were all singled out as well, with Holliday noting simply that “the core group is getting better.”

One name Holliday didn’t mention, and for good reason, was Covey’s.

The wideout is out for the entirety of spring ball, recovering from both a torn ACL and meniscus, not to mention a broken wrist.

The broken wrist is actually taking the longest to heal, in part due to the fact the Covey played with the injury throughout most of last season.

“He is a tough kid,” Whittingham said. “That is the reason why he didn’t throw it more than he did. We had planned on using him extensively. With his throwing ability, we wanted to maximize that, but (the broken wrist) is why you didn’t see a lot of that later on. Hopefully that gets backs to a 100 percent, it is still not, but we expect him to be 100 percent by fall.”

Also listed among the walking wounded heading into spring was Nacua, although the junior has been thoroughly involved in practice thus far.

Still, injuries have made for one final goal for the receiving corps.

"We need to get all the receivers to the fall," Enis said. "We want to get the playbook down and we want to stay healthy."