Just about every national college football pundit has heard about that Dres Anderson kid out of Utah who can snag a deep ball as good as anyone else in the country. Unfortunately for the Utes, Anderson has been just about the only noteworthy receiver in recent years besides Shaky Smithson and Reggie Dunn who both had their claim to fame on special teams.
This year’s group of wide receivers is trying to erase the label of mediocrity that has plagued the Utah program since their move to the Pac-12 in 2011. In a pass-happy league, they want to show that the Utes can not only keep up with the high-powered offenses of the Pac-12, but also hold their own with some of the best passing games in the country.
The 2014 wide receivers have a unique combination of seasoned upperclassman with talented, though unproven freshman. This combination of players will hopefully create one of the deepest receiving corps in recent memory and will greatly aid whichever quarterback lines up behind the center on August 28 against Idaho State.
Dres Anderson: 6’2" 190 Senior
The unquestioned "go-to guy" among the receivers, "Drizzy Drezz" (as he likes to be called) will be a critical factor in the success of the Utes this season. While Anderson has built up an impressive resumé and stat sheet over his three years on The Hill, he hasn’t had a strong running game or much help from his fellow receivers in order to turn his big stats into W’s for the Utes.
Anderson has played in all 37 games for the Utes over the past three seasons and has started 25 of them. Last season, Anderson led the Utes in every receiving category: yards (1,002), receptions (53), yards per catch (18.91), yards per game (83.5), and touchdowns (7). Anderson also finished tied for first in the nation with seven receptions of 50+ yards and was named an All-Pac-12 honorable mention.
A lot is going to be expected of Anderson this year, earlier this spring NFL.com named Anderson one of the 14 most explosive players in college football. Pressure to perform will rise with Devontae Booker leading the charge on the ground and other receivers like Kenneth Scott and Dominique Hatfield relieving pressure on the edges. If all goes well for Dres, he could be looking to compete for the Biletnikoff award (given to the country’s most outstanding receiver) this year.
Kenneth Scott: 6’3" 208 Junior (RS)
Similar to how the Batman returned to Gotham to take back his city from the maniacal Bane, the Utes’ dark knight looks to return to the field after suffering a season-ending ankle injury in the first quarter of last year’s season opener against Utah State. In the 2012 season Scott played in all 12 games for the Utes and finished with the second most receiving yards (360). He also finished third in total receptions (32) and hauled in three touchdowns on the year.
Scott, like Anderson, will also be crucial to the Utes success through the air this season. Scott’s size and speed will force defensive backs to keep an eye on him and that means no double teams on Anderson in the deep secondary. Scott should become the go-to receiver whenever the Utes find their way into the dreaded red zone that they have so much trouble entering. Scott’s route running should cause fits among slower linebackers, and his size and athleticism will make him a serious threat against most corners in the end zone. Whoever lines up at quarterback for the Utes will be glad they have a guy who can go up and get a ball that might not be in the best position for the receiver.
Watch out for the big receiver with the black and yellow UnderArmor Batman cleats to have a big season.
Dominique Hatfield: 5’10" 175 Sophomore
Hatfield was the most productive receiver during the spring game, which did not feature the likes of Anderson or Scott suiting up for the red or white teams. Hatfield finished the day with four receptions for 93 yards and a touchdown.
It may have been hard to notice, but Hatfield did play in 11 games during his true freshman campaign last year. He finished the season with four receptions for 84 yards including a 48 yard snag against the mighty Oregon Ducks in Eugene. Hatfield also left his mark on special teams, racking up 116 kick return yards and seven tackles on kickoffs.
Hatfield did the dirty work last season and will most likely be rewarded with heavy minutes in his sophomore season. Hatfield will be among a slew of candidates vying to be that third option, but if spring is any indication, he'll get a good chance to prove himself in the fall.
Geoffrey Norwood: 5’8" 175 Senior
Norwood played primarily special teams throughout most of last season, but he began to show that he could be a dynamic weapon in the slot later into the season. He’s proven that he can be an effective player on punt return and punt coverage, averaging nearly nine yards per return and racking up 13 tackles throughout last season. On the season, Norwood played in 12 games, racking up 173 yards receiving, including a four catch, 28-yard game in the upset of then no. 5 Stanford. In the recent spring game, Norwood also caught three balls for 25 yards.
While most Pac-12 defenses probably wouldn’t worry too much about the diminutive Norwood, with receivers like Anderson and Scott lined up on either side of him, he could become a valuable weapon at the disposal of his quarterback. Opposing secondary’s are going to be stretched out as it is trying to cover Anderson, Scott, and Hatfield, leaving burley linebackers trying to cover the speedy and elusive Norwood.
While Norwood will probably make more of an impact on special teams than he will on the offense this season, don’t be surprised to see him make some big time plays when the pocket collapses or when the quarterback runs out of options looking down the field.
Delshawn McClellon: 5’9" 169 Sophomore (RS)
McClellon runs a 4.37 40-yard time, making him the fastest straight-line runner on the team. McClellon used that breakaway speed on special teams where he racked up 195 yards on 9 kickoff returns.
McClellon, like Norwood, will probably impact special teams more than offense this year, but never underestimate a guy with that kind of speed in the slot or down the sideline. In the spring, offensive coordinator Dave Christensen demonstrated a propensity for screens and swing passes, which could be a niche for speedy wideouts like McClellon to really impact the game.
Andre Lewis: 6’3" 208 Senior
Lewis is a wildcard who was expected to be more of a contributor last season. But with Christensen supposedly employing four and five wide sets, Lewis will have plenty of opportunity to make an impact in his senior year.
Kaelin Clay: 5’10" 188 Senior
Clay, another speed merchant, is expected to be an immediate impact player. Look for Clay to push McClellon and Hatfield for the third position among the wide receivers and potentially be a primary deep threat.
Andrew Santiago: 6’0" 195 Sophomore (RS)
Bo Kimball: 6’2" 165 Freshman (RS)
Kenric Young: 6’2" 180 Freshman
Young was recently named Track and Field Athlete of the Year by the Gainesville Sun, so he brings speed and athletic ability to the team. At 6-2, Young has the potential to make waves this season, but he should have plenty of experienced, junior and senior talent ahead of him.
Micah Thomas: 6’0" 194 Freshman (RS)
Thomas has been moved to wide receiver this year and, while athletic and talented, seemed a bit raw for the position in the spring. He'll likely need a season or two to acclimate to the position and the new offense, but Thomas could be an impact player in a couple of seasons.