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Utah spring football odds and ends: Why the Utes aren’t holding a pro day

Usually, NFL representatives flock to Utah’s campus each spring to evaluate Ute players ahead of the draft. But there was no pro day in 2020 for any program due to the pandemic. This year, there is no pro day at the U. for other reasons

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Utah quarterback Ja’Quindon Jackson lines up under center during Utes spring camp at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City.

University of Utah Athletics

Utah’s football program is not holding a pro day. 

Usually, NFL representatives flock to Utah’s campus every spring to evaluate Ute players ahead of the draft.

There was no pro day in 2020, for any program, due to the pandemic. This year, there is no pro day at the U. for other reasons. 

“It is much different this year without a pro day. It’s the first time ever since I’ve been at Utah that we haven’t had a pro day,” said coach Kyle Whittingham. “It’s because we don’t have anybody, not one player, has made himself eligible for the draft. This year, with the super seniors, they had to make the declaration weeks ago whether or not they’d enter the draft or come back.

“But everybody opted to stay here, underclassmen as well. We had several players that will be juniors in eligibility this fall that could have opted to come out,” he continued. “There will be no Utes represented this year in the draft. But next year you can count on a good crop of players coming out of here.”

Even without a pro day last spring, seven Utah players were selected in the 2020 draft. 

“We were supposed to (have a pro day) and we had one on the calendar. That was tough on those guys,” Whittingham said. “It’s been different. Hopefully, next year, knock on wood, we’ll get back to normalcy and everything will be back to the usual procedure.”

HAPPY RETURNS: The spring depth chart lists Britain Covey as the only punt returner. Covey is one of the nation’s top punt returners. 

But special teams coordinator Sharrieff Shah said that during the spring, he’s evaluating other candidates. 

“There will be a high likelihood of trying to give one of our other dynamic, electric playmakers back there because Britain is so pivotal to the offense,” Shah said. “We want to keep him in that offensive set but he does so much for the team. I have to do a good job of identifying other players like Jaylen Dixon or Money Parks, people who consistently get the ball in their hands and are absolutely electric. That’s my goal. We’re definitely trying to develop that secondary person. I don’t know who that will be. At the top of the list is Jaylen Dixon and Money Parks.” 

Shah added that transfers T.J. Pledger and Chris Curry also have experience in kick returning. 

“We have some good options,” Shah said.

ON HOLLIDAY: Covey took time this week to praise the contributions of Guy Holliday, who served as Utah’s wide receivers coach for five years before being let go. 

Holliday was replaced by Chad Bumphis. 

“First thing is, all the guys that were here with coach Bumphis in 2018 recommended him. When coach Whitt asked us about him, all of us gave him the highest recommendations,” Covey said. “At the same time, we really appreciate coach Holliday. I love coach Holliday. One great thing about him is he cares about us as men, not just as football players. We’ll never forget that. We are grateful to have coach Bump, too.”

FRESHMEN D-LINEMEN: Whittingham likes what he’s seen from a pair of freshmen defensive linemen, Van Fillinger and Xavier Carlton. 

Fillinger played in five games in 2020 while Carlton saw action in four games. 

“They continue to get better and bigger as well. Van and X are both over 260 (pounds),” he said. “When we got them they were in the 240 range. Their knowledge of the scheme has obviously increased. They’re doing a nice job. They’re much improved from where they were last fall.”