The Utah Utes head into 2015 with a bit of uncertainty at the wide receiver position. The passing game wasn't the number one option in Utah's offense during its 9-4 run through the season, but with the offensive coordinator position recently vacated by Dave Christensen (who took the position of offensive line coach/running game coordinator for Texas A&M), that could change. Here's a breakdown of the wide receiver situation for Utah heading into spring.
Graduation cost Utah two players who played a big part in the Utes' passing game last season. Wide receiver Kaelin Clay finished his only season in Salt Lake City as the team's leader in receiving yards with 523 yards from 43 receptions and was one of four players to finish the season with four touchdown receptions, including the pivotal overtime score against the Trojans. That's not even mentioning his value to one of the best special teams units in the nation. The Utes will be hard pressed to replace his 1,421 all-purpose yards and eight total touchdowns.
Dres Anderson, a two-time leader in receiving yards for Utah who started 32 games in four years, had his season cut short due to a knee injury sustained in the USC game. He finished the season with 355 yards and four touchdown receptions, averaging 16.1 yards per catch in his seven starts. The Senior Bowl-invitee's experience will be missed.
The good news is leading receiver Kenneth Scott (senior, 6-3, 208) returns for another season and will look to man one of the outside receiver spots if Utah chooses to remain a spread-based offensive attack, which it should given the personnel remaining. Scott parlayed a solid season into 48 receptions, 506 yards, and four yards, including a four-reception, 71-yard performance against Stanford, where he caught the game-winning touchdown in double overtime. He's missed two seasons (2010, 2013) due to various injuries, so there's a definitely risk. But Scott has started 23 games in his career, so with a clean bill of health, he should easily be the passing game's number one option.
Tim Patrick (senior, 6-5, 190) had his season cut short from a leg injury suffered against Oregon, but the big-bodied former walk-on is poised to make contributions in the passing game after starting four games and catching 16 receptions and 177 yards during his first season at Utah while also stepping into Anderson's role after he went down.
Delshawn McClellon (junior, 5-9, 169) showed flashes of play-making ability during the end of the season -- he had a 55-yard reception against Colorado and a 22-yard touchdown reception in the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl against Colorado State -- so he should make more of a impact in 2015. His 40 time has been clocked at 4.37, so he's definitely quick enough to cause problems for the secondary no matter where he lines up.
Kenric Young (sophomore, 6-0, 180) didn't have any receptions as a true freshman but took the field in seven games and even made a start against Arizona. He's also a speedster and ended his senior year as the Gainesville Sun's Track and Field Athlete of the Year. Someone with 10.76 speed in the 100 meter dash could definitely give Pac-12 defensive coordinators headaches. Jameson Field (sophomore, 5-11, 176) also ended his true freshman season on Utah's two-deep and saw action in six games, including Utah's bowl game.
As in 2014, the Utes look to have a lot of wide receiver candidates coming in the upcoming recruiting class. One receiver who could make an immediate impact in 2015 is Deniko Carter (6-4, 180). A three-star JUCO recruit according to Rivals, Carter possesses a large frame and should provide depth in the receiving ranks in case the injury bug bites Utah's receivers again or could even press Patrick for field time. His highlight film* is quite impressive. Galivan lined him up primarily on the outside and used him several times as a deep threat. He does a good job of using his frame to get jump balls. Carter also returned some kicks, although most FBS kick returners don't have the height that he does. He should instantly provide depth on the Utah two-deep and might make a push for some starting time down the road.
Although he's said the coaches see him mostly at cornerback, fellow JUCO commit Kyle Fulks (5-9, 175) said himself he'd pick wide receiver if given the choice, so he could line-up on offense. If that's the case, the former Baylor commit could give Utah another option with top-level speed, since Fulks also has a strong track background (he was once clocked at 10.21 in the 100 meters in high school). Game tape from his freshman season at Blinn College shows him lining up primarily in the slot when he takes the field on offense, the one position where Utah needs some experience. That's something to keep an eye on during the spring.
Assuming Utah maintains its three-wide look, here's the projected two-deep for Utah's receivers heading into the spring:
1. Kenneth Scott
2. Kenric Young
1. Delshawn McClellon
2. Jameson Field
1. Tim Patrick
2. Deniko Carter
Scott and Patrick are obvious choices to start again in 2015, given their experience from the previous season. McClellon should be the favorite to take over Clay's role as the slot receiver. His speed and big-play capabilities could make him a threat on the jet sweep or the bubble screen, or even deep down field. It will be interesting to see how the new, TBA offensive coordinator decides to use him. Young and Field at least saw game time last season, so they should be favorites to provide depth at the wide receiver position. Carter should be the first receiver from the class of 2015 to get a chance to prove his worth and might actually push Patrick for starting time on the edge. Right now it's all speculation given the uncertainty of what type of offense Utah will run this season. The picture will become a little more clear when Utah hires another offensive coordinator and spring practice rolls around. Utah resumed weight training on the 15th, so the players already on campus will have plenty of time to prove themselves before the season starts.
*All stats and film courtesy of Hudl.