As fall camps continue on in preparation for the college football season, a list by Pac-12 Conference insider Jon Wilner of the Mercury News was published on Tuesday in which he identified 15 players in the conference who could have a breakout campaign in 2022.
Among the 15 were two Utah Utes. Wide receiver Devaughn Vele came in at No. 2, and defensive end Van Fillinger was No. 8.
Wilner determined that the following groups of players were not considered:
- Inter-conference transfers.
- Players who have received first- or second-team all-Pac-12 honors in the past.
- Some multi-year starters “whose names should be well recognized by fans across the conference.”
Of Vele, Wilner wrote, “The former walk-on averaged 17 yards-per-catch last season in a limited role. He’s 6-foot-5 with soft hands and body control. The Utes need playmakers on the outside to complement their stellar tight ends and fill the void left by Britain Covey’s departure. We have Vele atop that list.”
Of Fillinger, Wilner wrote, “The Utes were so loaded defensively last season that a first-year starter who recorded 5.5 sacks and 9.5 tackles-for-loss managed to toil in relative obscurity. That won’t be the case this season. Fillinger is a worthy successor to Utah’s unblockable defensive ends over the years.”
In a bit of potential controversy for Ute fans, Wilner put Oregon cornerback Christian Gonzalez at No. 7 and wrote in part, “He just might be the best on the West Coast. (We’ll pause while Utah fans ponder whether Salt Lake City counts as the West Coast and if we are, in fact, tossing shade at Clark Phillips III.)”
Cal defensive tackle Brett Johnson occupied the top spot on Wilner’s list ahead of Vele.