It may be July, but football is coming back into our lives today with Utah football kicking off fall camp today. The practice is closed to the public and only the final 20 minutes are open to the media. This means that interviews with coaches and players will likely provide the most information on how practice went.
This fall camp will feature lots of intrigue as Utah replaces 17 players from the 2016 team who are currently on NFL rosters. The Utes lost four starters on the offensive line and four in the secondary as well. These are certainly the two position groups with the most new faces in 2017. Fans got to see some of the potential replacements in spring football, especially along the offensive line, but newcomers like cornerbacks Javelin Guidry, Jaylon Johnson, and Tareke Lewis will likely push for playing time and a starting role in the defensive backfield.
Other offensive position groups of note that are not replacing as many starters are quarterback and wide receiver. At quarterback, 2016 starter Troy Williams is back for his senior season, but he will be challenged by Alabama transfer senior Cooper Bateman and sophomore Tyler Huntley. At wide receiver, Utah lost Tim Patrick, but they bring back a lot of talent, and they added two players before fall camp: Josh Nurse and former Oregon wide receiver Darren Carrington. Taking stock of this two recent additions will be key before the season starts since they have not participated in any practices at Utah prior to fall camp. Raelon Singleton, Siaosi Wilson, and Demari Simpkins all played last year and flashed big potential. Freshmen like Tyquez Hampton and Bryan Thompson could push to see the field as well. Running back is always a historically strong position, and that should continue in 2017 with Armand Shyne, Zack Moss, and Devontae Henry-Cole. Freshman T.J. Green is one name to watch as well. Tight end is solid with seniors Harrison Handley and Siale Fakailoatonga.
Outside of the secondary, the defense returns mostly intact. The defensive line lost talented ends Hunter Dimick and Pita Taumoepenu and tackle Pasoni Tasini, but this is a group with tons of talent that just reloads every year. Lowell Lotulelei, Filipo Mokofisi, and Kylie Fitts, all seniors, will lead the group, and talented underclassmen Leki Fotu, Bradlee Anae, Chris Hart, Maxs Tupai, and others will likely contribute as well. All of Utah’s linebackers from 2016 are back. This is a group that was hit by injury last year and was inexperienced after losing three senior starters following the 2015 season. Expect high level play from this group in 2017 with guys like Kavika Luafatasaga, Cody Barton, Donavan Thompson, and Sunia Tauteoli all back with a year of experience under their belts.
Special teams features reigning Ray Guy Award winning punter Mitch Wishnowsky. Punt returner is slated as Boobie Hobbs, and Kyle Fulks and Julian Blackmon are tabbed as kickoff returners. The big position battle on special teams is at kicker to replace four-year starter Andy Phillips. The two names to watch are Hayes Hicken and returned missionary Chayden Johnston.
Fall camp concludes on Saturday, Aug. 19, which also coincides with Fan Fest.