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Wide Receivers The Key To Utah Football Bringing A Championship Home In 2020

Sean Harper Jr. #27 of the Washington State Cougars tackles Bryan Thompson #19 of the Utah Utes in the fourths quarter of the Cougars 33-25 win at Rice-Eccles Stadium on November 11, 2017 in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Utah football has come incredibly close to gaining their first Pac-12 Championship over the last two seasons, however, unfortunately, they have been unable to beat Washington and Oregon respectively in the championship game.

It is inevitable that the tide will eventually turn in favor of the Utes, although, a few things need to change for that to happen.

On the latest episode of It’s Utah’s World, Steve Bartle and myself discussed what we believe is holding Utah back from being crowned Champions in the West.

Receiver(s) = Championships

It isn’t that Utah has not had good wide receivers in the past, in fact, it is far from that.

Dres Anderson and Kenneth Scott were rock solid. Anderson was the speed demon whilst Scott was the big, physical ‘throw it up and he’ll come down with it’ threat on the outside. A good combination, to say the least. However, when Anderson and Scott were running rabid for the Utes, it was during a time when other position groups were still finding their feet in the Pac-12.

Utah has had a hard time finding ways to best utilize the playmakers on the outside. When you breed the formidable tailbacks that Utah does, it becomes a tricky balance between running and passing. What gives the team the best chance of winning? For Utah, it has been the ground and pound game and for good reason. If your opposition cannot stop the run, no matter what they try and do, why would you stop?

But for the Utes to take the next step in their Pac-12 growth, and for them to reach their goals of bringing home a championship, they need to adjust.

As Bartle mentioned on the podcast. Since 2012 (the start of the Pac-12 era) there has been a direct correlation between the Pac 12 Championship winning team and a prolific receiving threat-

2011: Oregon’s leading receiver was De’Anthony Thomas with 445 (but over 1000 yards from scrimmage).
2012: Stanford’s leading receiver was Ty Montgomery with 958 yards.
2013: Stanford’s leading receiver was Ty Montgomery with 604 yards.
2014: Oregon’s leading receiver was Bralon Addison with 804 yards.
2015: Stanford’s leading receiver was Christian McCaffrey with 1913 yards from scrimmage.
2016: Washington’s leading receiver was Dante Pettis with 761 yards receiving.
2017: USC’s leading receiver was Michael Pittman Jr. with 758 yards, not to mention Amon-Ra St. Brown had 750 and Tyler Vaughns 674.
2018: Washington’s leading receiver was Hunter Bryant with 805 yards and Aaron Fuller with 702.
2019: Oregon’s leading receiver was Johnny Johnson III with 836 yards.

Entering 2020, Utah has a chance to create history and become the first Utah team to win the Pac 12 Championship. However, for that to happen, tight-end Brandt Kuithe needs to take his game to another level from 2019 and Bryan Thompson needs to find a way to stay healthy.

Kuithe was voted as an All-Pac-12 Second Team player, only behind potential first-round tight end Hunter Bryant of Washington. Kuithe enters 2020 as the presumed best tight end in the conference.

While Thompson has all the attributes to be one of the top tier wide receivers in the conference. His speed, strength, height, crisp route running and strong hands make him a near-impossible matchup for whoever is tasked with the challenge. He gets open, finds space, knows how to operate in small spaces and can beat every coverage. He just cannot stay healthy for the duration of a season.

If Utah is going to seriously contend for a championship in 2020, that needs to change.

It would also not hurt if Britain Covey got back to his slippery ways. Not to mention the high-school hype that Solomon Enis brought to Utah, it would be nice to see him string a few games together. And how could I forget about the unmistakable Samson Nacua and Jalen Dixon who both have the ability to take over games.

Point being, Utah has weapons and they all sit in the wide receiving room.

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Tom Hackett is a Utah and Real Salt Lake Insider for KSLsports.com and host of the It’s Utah’s World Podcast (Utah Football themed) and The Lion’s Den Podcast (Real Salt Lake themed). Follow him on Twitter: @TomCantHackett.

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