Camp Kyle ’16 officially kicks off today, marking the beginning of football for the University of Utah football program. One of the most interesting parts of fall camp is watching the individual position group battles to see who emerges as the next playmaker at their respective position group. This year the focus is undoubtedly on the quarterback position replacing a four year starter, but let’s take a look at a few of the other, less hyped, position battles this fall.
Evan Moeai, Siale Fakiloatonga and Harrison Handley are all listed as even on the Utes pre camp depth chart. This should truly be an open competition between the three, given they have all seen significant playing time in their careers. Handley is the best pass catcher of the group but his blocking was suspect at times. He has made a point to gain strength and work on blocking technique in the offseason. Seeing him put his work to practice in camp will be interesting.
Fakailoatonga stepped in last year after Moeai went down and provided a great blocking tight end and capable pass catcher. Moeai is kind of the happy medium between Fakailoatonga bringing both solid blocking and receiving skills to the table. Whittingham has alway favored tight ends and receviers who were strong blockers. Fakailoatonga would seem to have the advantage heading inot camp if this holds true. However, if the staff is serious about improving the "throw game" Handley should have an opportunity to earn the starting spot.
This is the biggest question mark on the team heading into camp and probably the biggest concern as well. There is definitely some talent at the position, but not much to show experience wise. Sunia Tauteoli is expected to contend for a starting position and for good reason. He shows good closing speed and is a big hitter despite being a bit undersized. The coaching staff will likely use his speed on the outside as a pass rushing linebacker.
The two other main contenders for a starting job are Cody Barton and Kaveka Luafatasaga. Barton, a former three star recruit from Brighton, got a little bit of action last year recording 7 tackles for the season. He is somewhat versatile being able to play either the stud or Rover linebacker position. Luafatasaga was a big get for the staff on signing day and helps shore up some of the depth issues the team could have potentially faced heading into this season. A highly touted prospect, he is expected to compete immediately for a starting role. At 6-4 he is longer than Tauteoli and Barton and also shows great burst off the edge. Using his length and athleticism he could develop into a do-it-all type of player for Utah.
The Receiver position has been a weak spot for Utah in recent seasons. Coach Guy Holliday was brought in to fix that and so far results have been promising. Cory Butler-Byrd appears to be a good bet to start at the slot position after switching to offense full time and Tim Patrick is back after sitting out last season.
A battle to watch will be between Tyrone Smith and Caleb Repp on the outside. Smith saw a lot of playing time last season as a freshman and had a solid year, all things considered. Repp played less than Smith last season but when he did play, had a big impact, catching two touchdown passes. Smith is the more athletic between the two and is listed ahead of Repp on the depth chart at the moment. Repp is rock solid with his ball skills however, and his frame makes him hard to beat in jump ball situations. Smith has the edge for now, but don't be surprised if Repp challenges for a starting role.