Britain Covey, the University of Utah’s little big-time, longtime receiver, wasn’t allowed to do a one-on-one interview with me last week, because, like most schools these days, Utah controls visiting hours like it’s running an ICU. It’s too bad, because I wanted to ask Covey so many questions.
Like what it was like to wear leather helmets.
I wanted him to tell me about playing one-platoon football for Ike Armstrong during the war. World War II, I mean.
Has he started drawing social security yet?
Covey has been with the Utes a long time. He’s been around so long that the TV announcers make cracks about it. He’s still on the team?
I wonder if he ever met Pop Warner.
Alas, Covey won’t return for his senior year; he’s going to forego his NCAA eligibility “early” and make himself eligible for the NFL draft. He announced this on Twitter and made this aside: “Many people reading this are probably thinking, ‘Wait, you’re telling me this guy has another year of eligibility?’”
Wait, you’re telling me this guy has another year of eligibility?
“While it sounds fun to drag out my college career until I collect social security, I’m ready for the next chapter,” he continued on Twitter.
Wait, that was my line (see fourth graph).
Anyway, Covey will pursue employment in the NFL. That would’ve been considered an absurd idea when he came out of Timpview High back around the turn of the century (the 20th century, that is) when the interest of college recruiters was about what you’d expect for a tiny quarterback. As he noted in his tweet, “The U was the first school, at any level, to offer me (a scholarship) as a scrawny, 5’8” quarterback from Provo.”
Wait, he’s that tall?
“As a kid who grew up dreaming of playing college football, it amazes me that my experience actually exceeded those dreams,” he continued.
Give Utah coaches props for their vision of Covey’s possibilities. He was a high school quarterback and a lightweight at that; the Utah coaches saw his potential as a college player — at another position. He has good speed, but what really sets him apart is his ability to cut while on a dead run, without easing back on the throttle.
He can stick a foot in the ground at full speed and just like that he’s going northwest instead of northeast. He’s shiftier than a gazelle. I think that’s listed as one of the “Seven Habits of Highly Effective Slot Receivers,” or something like that. He runs like Gale Sayers (I think they were once teammates).
He hopes the NFL sees his potential as well as his collegiate coaches did.
“In pursuit of another childhood dream,” he tweeted, “I’ll be preparing for the 2022 NFL draft in hopes that someone takes a chance on me.”
It’s not difficult to imagine Covey as an NFL slot receiver a la Julian Edelman, Wes Welker or Hunter Renfrow. They’re bigger than Covey, but not as shifty or fast. His abilities as a return specialist will increase his value.
Covey leads the nation in punt returns this season, averaging 14.7 yards per attempt. He also leads the nation in another more esoteric category that has been created in the age of analytics; it’s called Return Yards Over Expected, which quantifies the number of yards per punt over what an average returner would be expected to gain based on field position and punt distance (the creator of this stat apparently has a lot of free time on his hands).
Covey averages a nation-leading RYOE of 8.3, all of which amounted to 223.6 additional yards this season, or about 100-plus yards more than anyone else in the country. He has returned two punts for touchdowns, which ties him for the national lead.
Covey does not have gaudy receiving stats this season — 49 catches, 480 yards, two touchdowns. That’s an average of only 3.7 catches per game — and he’s the team leader. His career numbers: 181 catches, 1,977 yards, 10 touchdowns, 290 rushing yards on 47 attempts, 2,267 total yards from scrimmage. He collected 103 of his catches in his first two seasons, which were sandwiched around a two-year church mission.
Utah receivers almost never have flashy stats, yet they have sent several receivers to the NFL, most notably Steve Smith, who is on the 2022 Hall of Fame ballot, and current Broncos receiver Tim Patrick, who was an undrafted free agent. Most of Utah’s receiving records are decades old despite the onset of the passing era. Smith had a modest 78 catches in two seasons at Utah. Patrick had 61 catches in two seasons.
Covey’s not done yet, of course. He will end his college career playing against traditional powerhouse Ohio State in the legendary Rose Bowl, which began in 1902.
That was a few years after Covey began playing for the Utes.