There were three huge news items that came out yesterday related to Utah football: the retirement of running back Joe Williams, the loss of Kylie Fitts for the year to injury, and the full reinstatement of Cory Butler-Byrd. With all of that news, we wondered, which news item was the biggest? Since I am a glass is half full kind of person, I will say the positive news of Butler-Byrd's reinstatement is the biggest news item to come out yesterday. Besides the obvious of this being the only positive news item to come out, there are other reasons as well for Butler-Byrd being reinstated having the biggest impact on the Utah football team.
Quarterback Troy Williams has shown promise as a passer, so giving him another target could really help the offense. Butler-Byrd is a dynamic athlete and has shown potential to be a big play deep threat at wide receiver. Wide receiver Tim Patrick has looked the part of a Pac-12 No. 1 wide receiver that Utah has not really had since joining the Pac-12 (outside of Dres Anderson in 2013 where he topped 1,000 yards receiving), so adding another threat in the passing game will just make Utah's passing attack that much more potent. Patrick and Butler-Byrd could form a dynamic duo at wide receiver. They are different styles, Patrick is a big, tall outside wide receiver, while Butler-Byrd is a smaller, shifty slot receiver. Having two threats at wide receiver means that the opposing teams cannot just focusing on shutting down one player in the passing game. Utah has also shown more of a commitment to throwing the ball this season. Through the first two games, Williams is averaging 29 passing attempts per game, which is higher than any other Utah quarterback in the Pac-12. Utah needs to maintain this commitment to the “throw game,” and getting Butler-Byrd back will only help with that.
One other reason is that defensive end and running back are deeper positions than wide receiver for Utah this season. Wide receiver came into the season as one of the biggest questions mark for Utah, while running back and defensive end both have depth known commodities. Utah also did very well recruiting both running backs and defensive ends in the 2016 recruiting class.
At running back, Zack Moss and Troy McCormick have both played well this season. McCormick is back from a knee injury that sidelined him for all of the 2015 season. Moss missed the first game of the 2016 season and is not totally in shape yet according to Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham. Moss is a big, physical back and punished BYU on Utah’s 11 minute drive. McCormick is more of a scat back. He is dynamic with the ball in his hands and has also seen some reps at slot receiver. Armund Shyne also ran hard at the end of the Southern Utah football game. Joe Williams struggled running the football, likely because of the reasons that led to him retiring from football. Williams has tons of talent, but he made a smart decision to retire if he did not feel he could take the physical beating that a football season can cause on a player’s body.
At defensive end, true freshman Bradlee Anae and redshirt freshman Chris Hart have both shown a lot of promise in practice. Utah also still has Pita Taumoepenu at weak side defensive end. He is an excellent player and was actually listed as the starter ahead of Fitts on the depth chart heading into the 2016 season (though Whittingham admitted they were more of co-starters). Kavika Luafatasaga might also be able to slide down from linebacker to defensive end on some plays, similar to how Utah previously used players like Nate Orchard, Trevor Reilly, Koa Misi, etc. Fitts is an incredibly talented player and is a big loss; I just feel Utah has talented guys behind him that can play well in his absence.
What news from yesterday do you think will have the biggest impact on Utah's 2016 football season?