Utah Football Will Have All New Starters At Cornerback For 2020 Season

Jun 14, 2020, 4:39 PM | Updated: Jul 5, 2020, 8:00 pm
Clark Phillips - Utah...
(Photo courtesy of Utah Athletics)
(Photo courtesy of Utah Athletics)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The Utes will a completely new look at their three cornerback spots this season with all experience leaving for the NFL.

Heading into the 2020 season, the cornerback positions have the most concern just simply with the new faces but Utah has recruited great players that could step in and be productive in the defensive backfield.

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

Returning Experience

Bronson Boyd will be a junior in 2020 for the Utes after arriving on campus in 2017 but had to sit out one season after transferring from Texas Tech. Boyd was originally a wide receiver and played in nine games with one start in 2018 with Utah, hauling in two catches for 40 yards. Last season in 2019, Boyd moved over to cornerback where he appeared in all 14 games on special teams with three appearances on defense.

Boyd is a 6’0, 192-pound speedster that has great athletic ability to disrupt opponent’s passing games. Learning from the 2019 Utah cornerbacks last year was huge for Boyd in his development.

Sophomore JaTravis Broughton played all 14 games on special teams last season as a true freshman while also playing on defense in four games including his first career interception against Idaho State. Broughton has shown signs of being a big playmaker on the defensive side of the ball. His 6’0, 190-pound frame will help his ability to make plays but it remains to be seen when the lights go on and he is playing against Pac-12 competition.

Sophomore Aaron Lowe will be a player that will likely be used all over the defensive backfield at both cornerback and safety positions. He played in 11 games on special teams for the Utes last season and is ready to step in and contribute on defense.

Freshman LaCarea Pleasant-Johnson did not play last season as a true freshman as the coaches utilized his redshirt. He is 6’0, 161-pounds but is a fast player. Learning from the cornerbacks last season will help jumpstart his development going into 2020.

Big Shoes To Fill

Utah’s historic defense featured a veteran group at cornerback with three players going to the NFL including two early entries.

Jaylon Johnson finished a fantastic junior season in 2020 as an All-American. He was named first team All-Pac-12 twice in his career in 38 games played. Johnson recorded seven career interceptions, 28 passes defended and 21 pass breakups. He was taken in the second round by the Chicago Bears in the 2020 NFL Draft.

Tareke Lewis shared starter reps with Josh Nurse at the right cornerback spot last season. As a junior college transfer, Lewis played in 11 games with two starts in 2018. Last season, Lewis played all 14 games with five starts on defense. He was second on the team with seven pass breakups and eight passes defended.

Josh Nurse played three seasons with Utah after joining the program in 2017 from Blinn College. In 2017, Nurse played 12 games mainly on special teams. The following season in 2018, he played in all 14 games on special teams and appeared in four games on defense. In 2019, Nurse started the last 10 games at cornerback while racking up 27 tackles, 2 tackles for loss and one sack. He signed an undrafted free agent deal with the Baltimore Ravens.

Javelin Guidry was Utah’s nickel back since his true freshman season in 2017. He was named All-Pac-12 Honorable Mention twice in his career with the Utes. Guidry was the fastest player on Utah’s roster and one of the fastest in the nation. He signed a undrafted free agent contract with the New York Jets.


Four-star Clark Phillips III is the highest rated recruit that signed with Utah in school history. The La Habra star joins Utah after originally committing to Ohio State before National Signing Day. He has the ability to be a dynamic playmaker in the defensive backfield. Phillips is currently slated to start at nickel back but could play both positions with his versatility. He could be in the same footsteps as Jaylon Johnson with three years at Utah before going to the NFL.

Three-star Caine Savage joins Utah from Anaheim, California and was recruited as an athlete but will be a cornerback for the Utes. The coaches really like his potential and feel that he has a chance to play day one.

Three-star Kenzel Lawler is a 6’3, 190-pound cornerback from Corona, California. He also has a high ceiling according to the coaches but will likely be one step behind the rest because he did not enroll early in the spring.

Starter Predictions

The obvious choice to start at one of the three cornerback positions is Clark Phillips III. During the off-season, he was getting acclimated to both cornerback and nickel back positions. I think Phillips will eventually move over to cornerback but I believe he will start the 2020 season at nickel back. Malone Mataele will serve as the backup to Phillips.

On the right side, I believe will go to JaTravis Broughton with LaCarea Pleasant-Johnson right on his heels. On the left side, I think will belong to wide receiver turned cornerback Bronson Boyd with Drew Rawls serving as a backup. Don’t count Caine Savage out either. He has the ability to jump in and play right away.

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.

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