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Utah Football: Will the wide receivers step up in 2016?

Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

It's no secret among Utah fans, and coaches for that matter, that Utah needs to get better production from, as Coaching Whittingham calls it, the throw game. While there is a battle for who will be the starting QB come the opener against Southern Utah, arguably (or not) the group that may define success for Utah's offense in the 2016 is the wide receiver group. Utah is losing Kenneth Scott and Britain Covey, two of their most productive receivers from last season, but there is a crew of guys coming back that have some experience.

On Utah's Pre-Fall Camp depth chart Utah has the following wide outs listed on the two deep: Tyrone Smith, Caleb Repp, Cory Butler-Byrd, Kyle Fulks, Tim Patrick and Raelon Singleton. This group has some experience, although it's vastly unproven; however, there are some very good pieces that the coaches have to work with. There's a nice mixture of tall, lanky wide outs, with Tim Patrick, Tyrone Smith, Raelon Singleton and Caleb Repp, and some speedsters with Fulks and Butler-Byrd.

The two names that fans have heard a ton about over the last year or so, but have been left waiting due to injury are Tim Patrick and Raelon Singleton. Two seasons ago, Patrick came out of virtually no where to be a contributor, but broke his leg against the Ducks, and wasn't able to get back last season. He was someone fans were hoping to see all of last season, because he's shown he has some reliable hands, and can move the chains. It'll be interesting to see how his health and conditioning are come fall camp, especially considering the coaches have him starting on the outside.

Singleton is a name Utah fans have been hearing from coaches and players, because he's a big strong wide out. He was plagued by injuries all year long last year, and barely saw the field. It was the same in spring ball as well, he injured himself early on and couldn't compete. He's one that Utah fans could possibly look out for on their down to help move the chains. I'm not real sure how his top end speed is, but Utah may have a couple of other guys to help with that.

Moving from corner to wide out full time is Butler-Byrd. He showed a little bit of what he could do on the 55+ yard bomb from Travis Wilson for a TD against Cal. Butler-Byrd is a burner and is a major deep threat. He was a major component of the offenses game plan against BYU in the bowl game, but got kicked out for picking up two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties. With Butler-Byrd, it's all about being able to pick up the playbook, and whether he can run clean routes. He has the speed to take the top off the defense and open things up for others, so if he picks up the other parts of the game, the Utes may have their first deep threat since Dres Anderson.

Fitting into the similar mold as Butler-Byrd, the very fast mold, that is, is Kyle Fulks. Fulks may be the fastest guy on the team, and is just a burner. The question with him is his hands and if can he catch the ball consistently. We saw some good signs in the Spring, but he still had plenty to prove once Spring ended. Fulks could be a great slot guy, and can be dangerous in the open field once he gets there.

Caleb Repp is one that has me very, very excited, with his full time move to wide out. Repp is one of the big guys, standing at about 6-5, and has good speed to go with it. He broke out a bit against Oregon as a tight end. Repp showed very well in Spring, especially the Spring Game, as he showed the ability to go up and get the ball, as well as being a deep threat. Repp could be a matchup nightmare for smaller DBs in the league, assuming his QB puts the ball in the right spots. Right now he's listed as a backup to Tyrone Smith, but I wouldn't be surprised if he ends up the starter.

As for Tyson Smith, or "T-Boney" as he's been called, he's another one of the tall guys. Measuring at about 6-4, he has the ability to be a tough cover for some corners, but I'm not sold on his speed. I'm not sure if we've had the chance to see him really open up and get down the field, but that's a bit of a concern for me. He made some nice plays last year for the Utes, but I do recall some dropping issues at times (which wasn't uncommon for many of the WRs last year). We'll see how much of a leap Smith has made from his freshman year to his sophomore year, because that alone could make a difference.

Looking around the depth chart for the Utes, there are some names that give me some optimism. There's some good pieces for the offense to work with, which could make for an upgrade over a season ago. Plus, there are still some promising names on the roster not on the depth chart, such as: Alec Dana (a JC transfer), Demari Simpkins (one of the Hallendale trio), Siaosi Wilson (a big sophomore that showed some promise), and Kenric Young (another burner from Florida).

Hopefully someone from this group of guys on the roster steps up and becomes "the guy." Meaning when Utah needs a big play on 3rd and long, they can look for him in the throw game. Utah will have a good running game with this offensive line and group of running backs, but the Utes will be taken to the next level if the wide outs (and QB) can get some big, consistent plays in the passing game.