Talented Utah Ute receivers ‘really don’t care’ who wins starting quarterback job
The Utes’ wide receiver group is confident they can catch on with whoever is playing quarterback
Message received — loud and clear.
Utah receivers coach Guy Holliday isn’t preoccupied with who the Utah Utes chose to be their starting quarterback. Although the winner of the competition between Jake Bentley, Drew Lisk and Cam Rising may be known as early as Monday, there are no plans for the Utes to share that information with the public at this time.
Fans, thus, may want to take Holliday’s stance on this one. He noted that the quarterbacks and receivers have been able to consistently throw and catch during the pandemic.
“Whoever is the quarterback, I really don’t care. Those balls are still going to come and I trust those guys to put it where it needs to be for me or any other receiver to get the ball.” — Utah wide receiver Bryan Thompson
”I think that has been a plus. If you look at other programs around the country, the offense is probably a little bit ahead of the defense right now — which is not what you normally see,” Holliday said. “So I don’t care who the quarterback is, our job is to catch the ball and to me it ends right there.”
Utah’s receiving corps is solid with six guys in the main rotation. A season-ending injury to Tyrone Young-Smith and Jaylen Dixon’s decision to transfer cut some depth at the position, but failed to put a damper on the group’s confidence. Those on the pre-camp depth chart include juniors Britain Covey, Solomon Enis and Bryan Thompson. The projected starters are backed by senior Samson Nacua, redshirt freshman Devaugn Vele and true freshman Money Parks.
The receivers could be asked to carry a bigger load than in the past several seasons with record-setting running back Zack Moss now with the NFL’s Buffalo Bills.
”I wouldn’t just say we are going to be a passing team because I think we are going to be well-balanced,” said Thompson, who added that offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig tries to base things on the defenses Utah faces. “But I feel like we will pass a little bit more because the wide receiver group has stepped up their game.”
The veteran receivers, Thompson explained, have taken the younger players under their wings to ensure “they do everything that we do in this program and follow the rules.”
Thompson is confident Utah’s receivers will work well with whoever is chosen to succeed Tyler Huntley at quarterback.
”They are competing and that is what I love to see. They are competing and getting ready to step in because they are filling some big shoes,” Thompson said. “They are coming in and competing to the best of their ability, which I love. Whoever is the quarterback, I really don’t care. Those balls are still going to come and I trust those guys to put it where it needs to be for me or any other receiver to get the ball.”
Last season, tight end Brant Kuithe led the Utes with 34 receptions. The next four highest totals were recorded by now graduated receivers Demari Simpkins (32) and Derrick Vickers (19), as well as Moss (28) and Dixon (24).
Thompson and Nacua lead the returnees at receiver. They each caught 18 passes in 2019. Covey, who opted to redshirt after four games last season in order to get healthy, is back as well for the position group. He led the Utes with 60 receptions in 2018 and 43 in 2015.
Holliday said getting Covey back at 100 percent gives the Utes a dynamic player after the catch, a weapon who can really make the first player miss.
“He gives you a lot of versatility in terms of you can hand him the ball, you can throw him the ball, so what it does is it gives you a lot of options,” Holliday said.
After Saturday’s scrimmage, Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said the receiving corps is pretty set and that they seem to have that group ironed out.
“Those first six are really the guys that are the primary targets,” Whittingham said.