The Utes are now two weeks into spring practice and the players have been able to settle back in to playing football, and coaches have been able to make some initial evaluations heading into the 2015 season. For cornerbacks coach Sharrief Shah, progress has been made with the cornerback group, as they look for replacements for Eric Rowe and Davion Orphey.
Dominique Hatfield presumably will return as one of the starting cornerbacks come fall. Hatfield played a huge role in Utah’s success last year after he switched from receiver to cornerback in fall camp. Hatfield shored up a thin secondary and was very productive, even sealing the victory over Colorado with a pick six. Despite his success last year, Hatfield still had a lot to learn about the cornerback position, and Shah has been impressed with his progress at picking up the nuances and subtleties of the position through the first two weeks of spring camp. Hatfield appears to be a rising star and should open the season as the No. 1 cornerback for the Utes.
Reggie Porter was one of the top corners on the team before the season started last year. He ended up injuring his knee in fall camp and subsequently sat out all of 2014. So far this spring, Porter looks to be healthy and is picking up right where he left off. Porter has good size at 5'11" 185 lbs. and plays with good technique. Currently, Porter appears to be the front runner to start opposite Hatfield.
Brian Allen is maybe the most intriguing player at the cornerback position. Allen came to Utah as receiver before switching to safety last fall and eventually to cornerback. Allen is a big bodied corner in the mold of Eric Rowe and Keith McGill. Standing 6’3" 200lbs., Allen is also reminscent of another Utah receiver turned corner currently playing in the NFL, Sean Smith. Reports out of spring camp are that Allen has done well adjusting to his new position snagging the first interception of spring ball, jumping a Conner Manning pass. With Hatfield and Porter healthy, it seems a long shot to see Allen earn a starting role. However with his size and continued improvement, he could earn time matching up against opponents bigger receivers - especially some of the bigger receivers through the Pac-12.
Ahmad Christian came over from South Carolina in January and is a one-to-play-one. Unfortunately Christian was injured in February and has not been able to participate in spring practice. Christian played in twenty four games for South Carolina, recording 16 tackles 4 pass break ups and a forced fumble. He could be ready to go by fall camp and will likely see playing time come fall.
Lastly, at the Nickel position, Justin Thomas remains atop the depth chart. Thomas has played well for the Utes, though his size (only about 5'8") has been his achilles heal. Boobie Hobbs, a sophomore, is behind Thomas on the depth chart, but has shown well this spring. Both have recorded interceptions and are having good springs so far. The Nickel position looks to be in good hands heading into fall.
Overall the cornerback position is shaping up to be a strong point for the 2015 Utes. Plagued by depth issues last year, the group seems to have the opposite issue this year. Hatfield is developing into a top tier, shut down corner and Porter looks to have the ability to do the same. Christian, Allen and Tavaris Williams all have the ability to step in and push Hatfield and Porter. The Utes played a lot of Nickel defense last season and if the trend holds this year, the Utes can only benefit from having so many talented defensive backs.