SALT LAKE CITY — Last summer, at Pac-12 Media Day in Hollywood, Utah coach Kyle Whittingham shared his early thoughts on running back Zack Moss.
“In high school, I felt like he was a terrific player, under recruited, very under recruited,” Whittingham said. “I couldn’t figure out why the SEC wasn’t all over him because we sure liked him.”
Whittingham went on to explain how former assistant coach Dennis Erickson recruited the Hallandale trio of Moss, quarterback Tyler Huntley and wide receiver Demari Simpkins out of Florida. The high school teammates went on to make valuable contributions at Utah. They also earned their degrees.
“They’ve done everything the right way,” Whitingham said. “And I can’t say enough good things about all three of them.”
Moss, though, proved to be someone extremely special. The 2019 Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year became the program’s first three-time 1,000-yard rusher. As a senior, he led the conference with 1,416 yards and was named an All-American by the Associated Press, CBS Sports, FWAA and Pro Football Focus.
“I think he was one of the top backs in the country last year,” Whittingham said. “He got a little slowed by injuries in his career here, but he’s healthy now.”
Whittingham compared Moss to former teammate Jaylon Johnson in terms of position mastery and work ethic.
“He’s got vision. He’s got balance,” Whittingham said. “He can run inside. He can run outside. He can pick up blitzes. He can catch the ball out of the backfield. He’s a complete back.”
Moss wound up breaking six school records in his career at Utah. He leaves as the all-time leader in career rushing yards (4,167), career all-purpose plays (778), career rushing carries (712), career touchdowns (41), career rushing touchdowns (38) and career 100-yard rushing games (18). He shares records for single-season rushing touchdowns (15) and career 200-yard rushing games (2).
Moss went on to participate in the NFL Scouting Combine. He ran the 40 in 4.65 seconds (later reduced to 4.52 in a private laser-timed run that was videotaped and sent to teams) and the 20-yard shuttle in 4.37. Other recordings included a 33-inch vertical jump and 19 reps in the 225-pound bench press.
Utah offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig said there’s a lot of interest in Moss as the NFL draft approaches, and rightfully so.
“It’ll be interesting to see how that one shapes up,” Ludwig said. “With the ball in his hand, he’s as dynamic and explosive as any player I’ve been fortunate to coach and he will be on an NFL roster.”
Ludwig has worked with 16 1,000-yard rushers in his career. The standouts include Moss, Quinton Ganther and Darrell Mack at Utah, as well as Heisman Trophy finalist Melvin Gordon at Wisconsin.
Moss, who is 5-foot-9 and 223 pounds, has been projected to go as high as the second round in this year’s draft.
“I think he’s got the full package.” Ludwig said. “I think he’s got plenty of size. He’s got good speed, the physicality, and an ability to make the first player miss.”
Utah, for obvious reasons, is quite pleased Moss honed his skills with the Utes. In turn, he expressed his gratitude following the Alamo Bowl loss to Texas. He enjoyed his time attending school in Salt Lake City.
“It’s a great place to come and mature as a person, on and off the field. If you’re really serious about your craft, this is a great place to come,” Moss said. “The coaches push you on and off the field — and especially in the classroom.”
Now it’s almost time to graduate in football. NFL.com analyst Lance Zierlein offered an optimistic outlook on the league website.
“Watching Moss’ game tape is like watching an exercise in controlled violence on just about every carry, but his vision, balance, patience and wiggle are additional skills that help to make him a well-rounded runner,” wrote Zierlein. “Personnel evaluators for NFL teams say there is wear and tear that could limit the length of his career. He needs to become more discerning with his physical challenges if he wants to see a second contract. He is a great fit for gap and inside, zone-heavy rushing attacks and could become an effective starter as a middle-round pick.”
•. •. •
What they’re saying about Zack Moss:
NFL.COM: “Starter within two seasons.”
BLEACHER REPORT: Third round, 76th overall — Tampa Bay Buccaneers
CBS SPORTS: Third round, 93rd overall — Tennessee Titans
DRAFTSITE: Fourth round, 144th overall — Seattle Seahawks
DRAFTEK: Third round, 76th overall — Tampa Bay Buccaneers
PRO FOOTBALL NETWORK: Third round, 106th overall — Baltimore Ravens
SPORTING NEWS: Second round, 63rd overall — Kansas City Chiefs
USA TODAY: Third round, 92nd overall — Baltimore Ravens