SALT LAKE CITY — The reporter had barely gotten the question out of his mouth — “Any new guys that have been impressive so far?” — before Utah coach Kyle Whittingham was quick with an answer.
“Jordan Wilmore … very impressed with that kid. … He’s going to be a good one.”
That was just three days into fall camp. A couple days later when Whittingham was asked about the running back situation, again the first guy he mentioned was Wilmore, a freshman from Los Angeles who has made a quick impression at Ute camp.
In fact, although it was less than a week into fall camp, Whittingham said Wilmore would be one of the main backups to starter Zack Moss, in addition to junior Devonta’e Henry-Cole and sophomore Devin Brumfield.
“If we had to make that decision today, yeah, but there’s a lot of football to be played before we have to make that decision,” he said.
While he might prefer to just use Wilmore within the four-game redshirt window that became possible last year and save his eligibility, Whittingham said he wouldn’t be averse to playing him all season.
“Tha main criteria we’ve got is to win games,” he said, “so anybody that can help us win games will be used.”
Third-year running backs coach Kiel McDonald has plenty of good things to say about Wilmore and echoed his head coach about playing him when ready. He pointed out that current Utes Moss and Brumfield played as true freshmen and Henry-Cole and T.J. Green played as redshirt freshmen.
“We kind of play young around here if they’re ready to go,” McDonald said.
In describing Wilmore’s strengths, McDonald noted several qualities — “great feet, balance, good vision, tough — everything that encompasses a Utah football player.”
Wilmore came to Utah from Lawndale High in LA after considering schools such as Arizona State, UCLA and Boise State. Wilmore was a three-time first-team all-CIF selction with three straight seasons of 2,000-plus yards — over 6,000 yards in his high school career.
That’s impressive, and as Whittingham put it, “I don’t care who you are or what level you play, if you run for 6,000 yards that’s an accomplishment.”
Like McDonald, Whittingham is able to rattle off several of Wilmore’s top attributes as a running back.
“He's a natural runner, has great instincts,” he said. “He’s got physicality to him, 205 pounds on a 5-foot-9 frame. He runs between the tackles well, has speed to get outside. He’s a lot like Zack Moss. The bottom line is he’s a very similar runner to Zack.”
Moss is about an inch taller and 15 pounds heavier, but the two have similar body types and running styles. Wilmore knows he has a ways to go, but he’s happy to have someone like Moss as a mentor.
“He’s a big help,” Wilmore said of Moss. “He’s a great influence to watch. I just love playing with him. He’s a great player.”
Moss returns the compliment when asked about Wilmore, saying, "He's been relentless so far coming in and going hard and working hard — that's a great attribute to have."
While Wilmore in unlikely to unseat Moss as Utah’s top running back, it’s possible he’ll play a significant role this season.
“We do have a workhorse (in Moss) no question about that,” said McDonald. ”But we would love to be able to play multiple running backs here, that’s the plan hopefully.”