Utah Football Starting With A Clean Slate At Safety For 2020 Season

Jun 3, 2020, 2:45 PM | Updated: Jul 5, 2020, 8:01 pm

Utah Utes defensive back R.J. Hubert (10) during a college football game between the Utah Utes and ...

Utah Utes defensive back R.J. Hubert (10) during a college football game between the Utah Utes and The USC Trojans on September 20, 2019, at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles, CA. (Photo by Jordon Kelly/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

(Photo by Jordon Kelly/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The Utes will have many new faces on their defense this fall for the 2020 season including at safety.

Even though both starters from last season are gone, one of the few positions on defense does have some experience and played in nearly every game in 2019 as a backup.

The Crimson Corner is previewing each position group leading up to the 2020 college football season. We begin with the safeties.

Returning Experience

The only safety from last season that played significant time that is returning this season is incoming junior R.J. Hubert. The Logandale, Nevada native played in 13 games on special teams and appeared in 10 games on defense. He started against Idaho State, Washington State and Washington when Julian Blackmon was out or Utah used three safeties.

Unfortunately, Hubert suffered a season-ending injury in the Pac-12 Championship game against Oregon shortly after Blackmon exited with his season-ending injury.

Entering the 2020 season, Hubert was not expected to participate in spring ball but since the Utes only had 3 practices before the shutdown of spring football due to the pandemic, it didn’t have any impact on Hubert.

Fall camp will be critical for Hubert to get in sync with his backfield mate. Expect Hubert to have a positive impact on and off the field for the Utes this season.

Incoming senior Vonte Davis played in all 14 games on special teams and appeared in six games on defense last season for the Utes. He appeared in games as a backup to Hubert, Blackmon and Burgess. If Utah is going for experienced veterans to patrol the defensive backfield, Davis is a go-to guy for that spot. He has shown signs of being a good safety, like most safeties to come out of the University of Utah.

Sophomore defensive back Aaron Lowe will be a player that Utah could turn to and expect to contribute at safety. Although, Lowe is a versatile defensive back that will likely play both cornerback and safety in games. Lowe played 11 games on special teams last season. Sophomore Alphonso Taylor, junior Stone Azarcon and redshirt freshman Jordan Anderson will be in the mix for reps this season.

Big Shoes To Fill

Utah’s safety duo in 2019 with Julian Blackmon and Terrell Burgess was one of the best in the Pac-12. Blackmon finished his senior campaign as an All-American and a three-time All-Pac-12 selection. He was taken in the third round of the NFL Draft by the Indianapolis Colts.

In just one season as the full-time starter, Burgess quickly caught the attention of Utah fans and the nation. He was named Pac-12 Honorable Mention. After working his tail off for four years at Utah, it paid off in 2019 and he was rewarded in 2020 when the Los Angeles Rams selected him in the third round of the NFL Draft.


Utah signed three recruits in the 2020 signing class to come in and help bolster the depth at safety. Ben Renfro was a three-star wide receiver and is now moving over to safety in college after prepping in Magnolia, Texas. Renfro has already enrolled and completed the spring semester at Utah. Defensive coordinator and safeties coach Morgan Scalley is impressed with the athleticism and ability that Renfro brings to Salt Lake City. I expect him to be in the mix for a starting spot at safety.

Local in-state recruit Nate Ritchie joins the Utes after have a successful high school career at Lone Peak. As a four-star recruit, according to 247 Sports, Ritchie was the 4th highest rated prospect in the state. While at Lone Peak, Ritchie was a player that was used all over the field. He has great football IQ and is a player who could play right away if needed. Ritchie has not enrolled at Utah yet but is expected to in the fall in time for training camp. His film shows great awareness on the field whether it’s in the open field or near the sidelines.

Three-star safety Kamo’i Latu will be a Ute this fall when he enrolls at the university. Latu is a three-star recruit from St. Louis High School in Honolulu, Hawai’i. At 6’1 and 190-pounds, Latu shows the ability to be a tough and physical safety. His film shows great speed in the open field along with great hands to haul in interceptions.

Starter Predictions

The obvious choice to start at one of the safety positions and likely at strong safety is R.J. Hubert. As long as his recovery is on schedule, I think he will be a starter for the Utes. Alongside Hubert, I expect Vonte Davis to take the free safety position but his spot is more up in the air. Ben Renfro has been talked highly of by Scalley and other coaches as well as Nate Ritchie.

My prediction is that Hubert and Davis are day one starters with Renfro and Ritchie as backups with Azarcon, Taylor and Latu on their heels.

Trevor Allen is a Utah Utes Insider for and host of the Crimson Corner podcast. Follow him on Twitter: @TrevorASportsYou can download and listen to the podcast, here.

  • Utah Utes Scoreboard

  • Utah Utes Team Leaders

  • Utah Utes Standings

Crimson Corner

Jaren Kump - Utah Utes Football...

Michelle Bodkin

Utah Center Jaren Kump Praises Cam Rising’s ‘Contagiously Optimistic’ Leadership Ahead Of Football Camp

Utah QB Cam Rising is holding the 'Rising Stars" camp later this week on June 13-14 and center Jaren Kump is along for the ride helping out.

5 days ago


Michelle Bodkin

Athletes For Life Partner With Crimson Collective For Second Year Of Ute Reservation Football Camp

Athletes for Life with the help of the Crimson Collective will put on a football camp for the youth living on the Ute Reservation.

9 days ago

Cam Rising Brant Kuithe Lander Barton Out For Season...

Michelle Bodkin

Utah Quarterback Cam Rising To Put On Camp For Community

Utah quarterback Cam Rising (along with several of his Utah football teammates) will be putting on a camp for the community in June.

17 days ago

George Kliavkoff - Pac-12 Media Day...

Michelle Bodkin

Utes Bulletin: Things Happening In Utah Athletics (Week Of 7/17/23)

It's Pac-12 Media Day week which means we are closer to the 2023 Utah football season and the Utes Bulletin gets football heavy once again.

11 months ago


Michelle Bodkin

Former Utah Football Star, DC Steve F. Hallsey Discusses Athletes For Life Experience

Former Utah football star and DC Steve F. Hallsey discusses his experience with Athletes For Life's at the Uintah-Ouray Ute Reservation.

11 months ago


Michelle Bodkin

Utes Bulletin: Things Happening In Utah Athletics (Week Of 6/26/23)

Can you believe it's the final week of June? Soon the Utes Bulletin will be prepping you all for Pac-12 Media Day and Fall Camp.

12 months ago

Sponsored Articles


KSL Sports

Utah Hockey Newsletter: Sign Up Now

Want to get the latest info on Utah's newest sports franchise? Sign up for the Utah Hockey newsletter!

Hans & Scotty's Day of Adoption...

Hans & Scotty’s Day Of Adoption

Join the KSL Sports Zone for Hans & Scotty's Day of Adoption, in partnership with the Humane Society of Utah, on June 25th, 2024!


KSL Sports

KSL Sports Newsletter: Sign Up Now

Sign up today for the KSL Sports newsletter. Get the latest Utah sports news delivered to your inbox.


KSL Sports

Jazz Notes Newsletter: Sign Up Now

Sign up today for the Jazz Notes newsletter. Get insider analysis, game recaps and opportunities to win tickets!

3 kids wearing real salt lake jerseys smiling...

Real Salt Lake

6 Reasons You Need to Experience a RSL Matchday

RSL Games are a great way to spend time with your family with fun activities, good food, and traditions you can only experience at the field.

High angle view of the beautiful Rose Bowl Stadium...

KSL Digital Sales

How to Prepare for the 2023 Rose Bowl

Everything you need to know to plan your 2023 Rose Bowl trip in Pasadena, California. This year, the Utes will face Penn State.

Utah Football Starting With A Clean Slate At Safety For 2020 Season