Going into the season, much was expected of Utah wide receiver Devaughn Vele.

The No. 13 Utes have been looking to its top wideout to produce at a high level.

In a 35-7 win over San Diego State last Saturday, it happened. Vele caught three passes for 38 yards and two touchdowns. 

“It’s proving a lot of people wrong. We heard a lot of things about them saying that the receiving corps is lacking and we can’t trust them on the outside. But once we’ve got the opportunity, we always make sure we capitalize on that.” — Utah receiver Devaughn Vele

“It felt really good,” Vele said. “A long time coming.”

Also, wide receiver Solomon Enis recorded three receptions for 35 yards and a TD. 

Every week this season, Utah’s coaching staff has been urging the receivers to be a bigger part of the offense by getting separation and “demanding the ball.” 

Saturday, the receivers delivered. 

“It was good to start to get the recognition that we’ve been working so hard for. A lot of the guys in the room, it’s been hard to stay with it. But we’ve got a good group of guys,” Vele said. “We’re selfless dudes. We understand that the team comes first. We just kept our head down and we were just waiting for the opportunity and we’re grateful that we got the opportunity.” 

The receivers are looking to build on their momentum Saturday (8:30 p.m. MDT, ESPN) when Utah visits Arizona State

No doubt, the receivers had heard their doubters. 

“It’s proving a lot of people wrong. We heard a lot of things about them saying that the receiving corps is lacking and we can’t trust them on the outside,” Vele said. “But once we’ve got the opportunity, we always make sure we capitalize on that. I give credit to the whole team. It’s not just us. It takes a whole team to win a game. … Everybody has a role in something. We don’t want to make it too much about ourselves. It’s really good to start getting the ball and getting a little more involved in the offense.”

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How did coach Kyle Whittingham assess the play of the receivers?

“Well, they made plays. They got open and (quarterback) Cam (Rising) got them the ball. You saw Solo Enis made a couple of nice plays,” he said, adding that Vele also stepped up. 

“The topic came up all fall camp and we saw glimpses (Saturday) of what his capabilities are,” Whittingham said. “He’s a big-play guy.”

Offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig was pleased with the performance of the receivers.

“They made the plays when the opportunities presented themselves. You talk about some early struggles, we weren’t releasing or winning at the line of scrimmage,” he said. “They figured that out and won some one-on-ones in the perimeter. They made some contested catches and some nice catches.”

Rising said the receivers’ ability to stretch the field opens up the rest of the offense. 

“It just makes us that more versatile. You can hit the guys in the middle or you can go outside. It gives you that many more options,” the QB said. “They do a great job of making sure that they’re doing whatever the team needs to do no matter what the situation and props to them. I’m glad we’ve got inside and outside. It makes my life that much easier.”

The tight ends — Brant Kuithe and Dalton Kincaid — have been putting up impressive numbers throughout this season. On Saturday, Kuithe had five catches for 64 yards and a touchdown. Kincaid hauled in three passes for 38 yards. 

“It’s awesome,” Kuithe said of the receivers’ play. “I’ve been saying since Day 1 that we have guys on the outside. They just have to prove it. They did this past weekend. Earlier I said that it was going to be a big week for the outside receivers, especially for Vele and Solo. And it was. I’m just happy for them and that they finally made plays.”

Added Kuithe: “We have so many weapons on the field. If they want to bracket and double me, then we have so many other guys that can get open. I don’t really mind that because it’s a team sport. Everybody can get the ball so we should space it out as much as we can because we have so many guys — we have Dalton, Vele, Solo. So many guys that can make plays and I’m happy for them to make plays.”

Utah receiver Solomon Enis runs after catching a pass against Florida, Saturday, Sept. 3, 2022, in Gainesville, Fla. Enis recorded three receptions for 35 yards and a TD vs. San Diego State last Saturday. | Phelan M. Ebenhack, Associated Press

Enis knows that the receivers need to continue to capitalize on their opportunities. 

“We have playmakers everywhere on this offense. You can try to stack the box, cut the shallow routes off from the tight ends, whatever. It don’t matter,” he said. “We have deep threats, we’ve got the guys that can cut across the middle and catch the zone reads. And we’ve got tailbacks and that great O-block that gets everything started.”

For Vele, getting separation has been a focus. 

“I’m always going to be critical about the way I run my routes. I know it’s the same with the other guys in the room,” he said. “We make it a point of emphasis that every time we run a route, we should always make it an easier throw for the quarterback. Catching the ball is easy. It’s getting open, that’s the important part. We always make sure that we emphasize that.

“If we can get the majority of those snaps with us being open and make Cam more comfortable throwing with us and knowing we can make those big plays — whether they’re on us or whether we’re wide open, as long as we make the play, that’s all that matters.”

Enis said he and Vele have an “amazing” rapport and they’ve been helping each other. 

“Every day we’ve been checking in with each other. We know what to expect from each other. I really appreciate and take pride in our relationship,” Enis explained. “I respect Vele a lot. I’ve got him through stuff and he’s got me through stuff. Our little duo is something special and I hope to build on that and take it day by day.”

What’s the emphasis for the receivers? 

“Stay consistent. Be the same guy day in and day out,” Enis said. “Don’t let the outside noise or anything affect you. Work on your craft and let everything else handle itself.”

Vele is optimistic that the receivers will continue to be productive this season in multiple ways to help Utah win games. 

“It’s understanding our role on the team. Everybody has a role. Some people are going to shine more than we do and there will be games where we shine more than them,” he said. “It’s making sure that we understand that and playing every play like we’re going to get the ball, regardless of who it’s thrown to.”

Utes on the air

No. 13 Utah (2-1) at Arizona State (1-2) 

Saturday, 8:30 p.m. MDT

Sun Devil Stadium 


Radio: ESPN 700