SALT LAKE CITY — Julian Blackmon, a two-time second-team All-Pac 12 cornerback, is making a smooth transition to free safety for his senior season.

Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said Blackmon is doing an outstanding job and looks like a natural at his new spot.    

Although the move breaks up a powerful cornerback pairing featuring Blackmon and All-America candidate Jaylon Johnson, it helps the Utes offset the graduation losses of last year’s starting safeties Corrion Ballard and Marquise Blair.

“It’s actually better because at corner we were always on opposite sides,” Johnson said. “So now that he’s at safety we have a lot more communication.”

“We just have to put it all together. It’s a new year. We haven’t down anything yet on the football field, so we’re just working hard right now so that in two weeks we can go out and prove it.” — Utah cornerback Javelin Guidry

The two have always had a trust factor, Johnson added, but now Blackmon literally has his back in working together.

“It’s going to be fun because at times the opposing quarterback is going to be like: ‘Wait a minute, now they’re both kind of on the same side,’” Blackmon said. “So it’s going to be interesting. It’s going to be fun, just being able to do different things because I’m in the back now.”

Blackmon, who requested the position change, noted it also gives the secondary some versatility.

“I can also come up and guard receivers just because I came from corner,” he said. “So it’s a lot of different things we can do and we’re excited for those things to happen.”

Utah’s secondary has depth and talent. 

Whittingham said Blackmon and fellow senior Terrell Burgess are “hands down” the No. 1 guys at safety. The top backups at this stage of camp are junior Vonte Davis and sophomore R.J. Hubert.

At corner, Utah’s projected starters are Johnson and senior Tareke Lewis. Senior Josh Nurse and freshman JaTravis Broughton are also in the mix. Junior Javelin Guidry returns as the starter at nickel with freshman Malone Mataele in reserve.

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“We’re seeing a lot of good things,” Whittingham said of the secondary. “They’re making plays on the ball. They’re in the right places with very few blown coverages.”

Even so, Whittingham explained that there’s still work to do with the 2s as camp enters its final week. However, defensive coordinator Morgan Scalley said there’s “good competition” in the secondary and guys are making “great strides.”

“I feel like we’re one of the best secondaries in the nation.” — Utah cornerback Tareke Lewis

Burgess noted that everyone is working hard in practice and getting into the film room. 

“I believe we’re going to be OK,” he said. “We are going to have a good year.”

How good?

“I feel like we’re one of the best secondaries in the nation,” said Lewis, who cited the unit’s technique, situational knowledge, intelligence and just being dogs.

Lewis is excited about the personnel changes, especially stepping into a starting role personally. He added a desire to just try and “be like No. 1 (Johnson) on the other side of the ball.”

The changes at safety are also viewed at positively.

“I think the safeties we’ve got now are more locked in than the safeties that were here last year,” said Guidry, who had praise for both Blackmon and Burgess.

Confidence is brimming in the secondary.

“We just have to put it all together,” Guidry said. “It’s a new year. We haven’t down anything yet on the football field, so we’re just working hard right now so that in two weeks we can go out and prove it.”