The Utah Utes entered the 2014 short handed at cornerback. Before the start of the season, projected starter Reggie Porter went down with a season ending knee injury. Porter had appeared to take over the starting spot from 2012 starter Davion Orphey. Orphey, a senior, returned to his spot, but behind he, sophomore Justin Thomas, and fellow senior and converted safety Eric Rowe, there wasn't much depth. Soon Dominique Hatfield, who played both receiver and corner in high school, found himself on the two-deep on offense and defense. Before too long, Hatfield had overtaken Orphey for the starting spot and may have found a permanent home at corner for the Utes.
In 2015, the graduation of Eric Rowe and Davion Orphey leaves some open spots at cornerback for the Utes. With the Utes running a nickle-package in the defensive backfield a lot of last year, one can assume that Hatfield will start at one spot, and Thomas will return to his nickle corner position in 2015. Thomas could move over to the starting corner spot, but he will have some competition.
Hatfield made an almost seamless transition over to the corner position from receiver at mid-season. By the end of the year, he had earned a reputation as a force in the secondary. His interception for a touchdown versus Colorado ultimately proved to be the game winner. Hatfield will be one starter this fall.
Reggie Porter should be back after recovering from his knee injury. Porter seemed to be the top corner in preseason last year, and should be a big boost to the secondary. The 5-11, 181-pound junior may get a year of eligibility back for 2014, but he at least has two years to play. Porter played mostly on special teams in 2013 but saw some action at corner. He had one of Utah's three interceptions, on a two point conversion. If fully recovered, he could return to another one of the starting corners.
Justin Thomas could slide over from nickle to the outside, but one could assume if Utah stays with their formation defensively, Thomas's contribution at nickle, would be seen as a starting position with the amount of time he spent on the field in 2014. The sophomore from Orange, Texas had 37 tackles, one fumble recovery, and one sack in 12 games this past season.
Ahmad Christian (5-10, 189) is a transfer from South Carolina who sat out 2014 due to transfer rules, which will make him a senior this fall. Christian, from Jacksonville, Fla., will have as much of a shot as any corner on the team to start, and may be one of the more experienced corners on the team. Christian was, apparently, sold on Utah's atmosphere and the chance to play man coverage against some of the most talented wideouts in college football.
Tavaris Williams (5-10, 180) saw time on special teams, and took a few snaps from the corner position last season. He had four total tackles in six games as a true freshman. Another Florida player that brings, "speed" on the outside, Williams arrived at Utah wanting to play running back, but defensive coaches got him on their side of the ball.
Boobie Hobbs (5-10, 175) intercepted nine passes as a senior at Landry-Walker High School in Louisiana. He recorded three tackles in 2014 but is a speedy corner who could see a more increased role this coming season. Much will be determined in spring, but you what they say, "If you want to win, put Boobie in."
Cory Butler (5-11, 170) is a four-star recruit, according to Rivals.com, as well . Butler is a JC kid out of Los Angeles Harbor Community College, so he'll be expected to come in an contribute right away, but whether or not that is during his first season remains to be seen. His film* shows a defender who can make offenses pay for mistakes. He's quick to the ball (and the end zone) and a hard open field tackler. He also is a particularly violent hitter and lightning fast blitzer in run support, which the Utes can definitely use. Check out his senior season highlights at about the 2:53 mark where he chases down a running back from the opposite side of the field. (He also displays a quick burst and elusiveness in the return game and could be a candidate to take over for Utah's long line of stellar return men, the latest of which, of course, is All-American and All-Pac-12 standout Kaelin Clay.)
*All stats and film courtesy of Hudl.