Spring practice starts in less than a week. In the run up to the start of spring football, we will be looking at the 10 biggest questions. We have already taken a look at several questions, and next up is looking at who will be the surprise player for spring. It seems like most years in spring a player will come out of nowhere and impress fans and coaches alike. In spring 2014, running back Devontae Booker went from unknown JUCO transfer to a fan favorite. He ended up running for over 2,500 yards in his two years at Utah, garnering All-Pac-12 Honors both seasons.
Utah has a knack for finding diamonds in the rough, and it is not uncommon to see some of those hidden gems begin to shine in spring football. While accurately predicting who will be the breakout player in spring, we can make a few educated guesses. There are also several positions that could use an unknown player or two to emerge. The two positions that could most use a star to emerge are linebacker and wide receiver. We will look at a few candidates from each position, and one other player who I believe is destined to become a great player.
First up, one name for Utah fans to remember is offensive guard Darrin Paulo. Paulo was highly recruited out of high school, choosing Utah over a host of other Power 5 offers. Paulo redshirted last season, but he did crack the two-deep in fall camp at left guard. Even though he may not start in 2016 (since left guard is occupied by All-Pac-12 Honorable Mention Isaac Asiata), I expect Paulo to turn some heads with this size and skill. He could see some playing time as part of a guard rotation this season and will likely be a starter for years to come.
Caleb Repp - Repp was originally slated to come to Utah and play defensive end (a la another wide receiver turned defensive end, Nate Orchard). He however stayed on offense and was quiet for the nonconference portion of Utah's schedule. Utah fans learned what "Baby Kap" could do when he caught two passes for two touchdown passes against Oregon. He could not replicate that success the rest of the season, failing to catch another pass all season. Repp is a hybrid wide receiver/tight end. Part of the reason Repp did not breakout last season (outside of the Oregon game) is that he is a bit underweight (he is only 200-210 at 6'4"+). Time in the weight room during the offense should help him bulk up, making him a mismatch as a slot receiver/tight end hybrid. He has the height to go up and get jump balls over cornerbacks and enough speed to outrun linebackers.
Kenric Young - the speedster from Gainsville, Fla. will be a junior this season. It is time for Young to put things together and start putting up bigger numbers. In two seasons at Utah, he has recorded four receptions for 16 yards. Utah needs a speedy deep threat, and Young has the speed to fill that role. Utah is a run-first team, but having a deep threat on the outside is essential to punish teams for stacking the box against the run (look at how Stanford used Michael Rector in their power run offense). One of Utah's other candidates for a deep threat at wide receiver, Delshawn McClellon, left the team, so unless someone who did not see any playing time last year (like Kyle Fulks) comes out of nowhere in spring camp, Young is really the only candidate to fill the role. He has the talent, it is just a question if he can put everything together.
With a new quarterback, receivers will have the opportunity to develop a relationship with the future starting quarterback in spring.
Cody Barton - he is the younger brother of redshirt sophomore tackle Jackson Barton. Both of Barton's parents played sports at Utah, so he comes from a very athletic family. He saw action in 11 games as a true freshman on special teams. Because of his family history, it seems likely that Barton might get a bit bigger (he is listed at 6'2" 232) and become a terror at linebacker. With Uaea Masina retiring from football, Utah will be short on scholarship linebackers in spring (before players like David Laufatasaga and Kurtis Taufa arrive in the summer). This means that Barton will have a chance to shine before more competition for playing time arrives before fall camp.
Sunia Tauteoli - Tauteoli came to Utah via Snow College. He was quiet in his first season at Utah, but he flashed potential during fall camp last year. He learned from three great linebackers last season (Gionni Paul, Jared Norris, and Jason Whittingham). Tauteoli is a player who I think could end up being a very good linebacker. He is instinctual and always around the football. He is a little undersized (6'0" 220) but very athletic.
The player who breaks out in spring might not be one of these five. These are just guesses at players at key positions that Utah could a breakout star. If one of these or more of players has a strong spring, it will be beneficial moving forward for Utah for fall camp and the 2016 season.
10 Biggest Spring Questions: