A couple of weeks before Utah opened spring practices, news surfaced that wide receivers coach Guy Holliday had been let go.
Before the Utes’ first practice of the spring Monday, Whittingham addressed the issue.
“We just felt that to take the position group to the next level and continue to progress and develop,” he said. “It’s nothing against coach Holliday. I love coach Holliday; he’s a close friend. We just felt like a new face and a new voice in that room would be a positive.”
During the offseason, Bryan Thompsonand Samson Nacua both decided to transfer out of the program. Thompson enrolled at Pac-12 South rival Arizona State while Nacua has announced that he’s transferring to BYU.
“We did lose a couple of guys in the portal,” Whittingham said. “We’re planning on adding to that position group. That will most likely not be until the summertime.”
But the Utes have a lot of talent returning, too, including Britain Covey, Solomon Enis, Devaughn Vele and Jaylen Dixon. Meanwhile, Caine Savage, who was a defensive back last season, has been switched to wide receiver. It could be a permanent move, depending on what happens during the spring.
Covey, a junior, has caught 132 passes for 1,497 yards and eight touchdowns during his career. Enis has 38 receptions for 445 yards and two TDs.
Utah also boasts two proven tight ends, Brant Kuithe and Cole Fotheringham.
“There’s a lot of talent. A lot of good receivers and tight ends,” said senior quarterback Charlie Brewer, a grad transfer from Baylor. “We have running backs that can catch the ball. We have a lot of guys that can make some plays. Overall, there’s a ton of talent.”
“I expect a lot of production,” offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig said of the receivers group. “I’m excited about the players we have in the room and the new coach in the room. We have a good chance to get better. There’s a good combination of returning experience and talented youth. We’re looking to put it all together.”
The new coach, Bumphis, is no stranger to Utah’s program.
“Chad was with us back in 2018 as a graduate assistant. He did a phenomenal job and he fit really well with our staff and what we were doing. He’s been a full-time coach at a couple of different places,” Whittingham said. “He did a nice job in those capacities. It seemed like he’s a guy that already knew our system and what we’re all about and how we operate.
“It seemed to be a really good fit. He was very popular with the players when he was here. We have players on the roster that were here during that year and they all have been positive in their viewpoint with Chad. It’s a good fit all the way around.”
After leaving Utah in 2018, Bumphis served as wide receivers coach at Austin Peay. He had accepted a job in the same position at Central Michigan, before the Utes came calling.
“After spending 2018 here as a graduate assistant, it didn’t take me long to know I eventually wanted to be back here as the wide receivers coach. It just feels like home,” Bumphis said. “I can’t begin to explain the excitement we’ve been feeling over the last couple of days.
“This program and the way these guys attack every day is exactly what you’re looking for when you’re joining a new program. We want to thank coach Whittingham for such a great opportunity, and also for believing in me enough to allow me to coach and mentor the young men in that receiver room. I’m beyond grateful and excited to get rolling.”
As a player, Bumphis broke the Mississippi State school record for receiving touchdowns (24). He also ranks No. 2 in career receiving yards (2,270) and No. 3 in receptions (159).
Bumphis earned Freshman All-Southeastern Conference honors in 2009 and was a second-team All-SEC receiver in 2012.
Holliday had spent five years with the Utes. In 2017, he coached Darren Carrington II to second-team All-Pac-12 honors. That year, Carrington jumped into the school single-season top 10 in receptions (70) and yards (980) and Tim Patrick caught 45 passes for 711 yards in 2016.
Now with Bumphis, Utah’s wide receivers room has a new voice and a new face. Time will tell what difference it could make to the Utes offense.