Five Objectives Kyle Whittingham Wants To Accomplish During Utah Training Camp
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham has to get some things ironed out during training camp in October before the start of the 2020 season.
Whittingham spoke to the media for the first time since the Pac-12 announced that they will begin their football season on the weekend of November 6.
Not having much of a spring football camp in March and April and having a delayed start has provided some challenges for Whittingham and his coaching staff. Especially with a very young team returning to the program.
The Utes lost three key starters on offensive and nine starters on defense from the 2019 squad that went 11-3.
Check out more from Whittingham, Utah linebacker Devin Lloyd and tight end Brant Kuithe on the Crimson Corner podcast.
Whittingham told the media that training camp will start on Friday, October 9. He listed some objectives that he wants to accomplish and also talked about some position groups that he is excited to watch.
1. Get A Starting Quarterback Named
After a tremendous season from Tyler Huntley in 2019, the Utes now need to replace him. They have great options to do so.
“Sooner rather than later obviously, the sooner it happens the more ideal for us as far as naming a guy and letting him get all of the reps with the one’s,” Whittingham said. “More importantly than that is getting the right guy named. It’s going to be a three-man race going in (into fall camp). We have to quickly narrow that down to two, when I say quickly, within a week. A week or so after that, narrow it down to one.”
Whittingham mentioned Jake Bentley, Cameron Rising and Drew Lisk will compete for the job to start camp. They will all get the same amount of reps before the staff narrows the competition to two QB’s.
2. Rebuild Defensive Secondary
After losing the entire defensive secondary to the NFL Draft or graduation, including cornerbacks Jaylon Johnson, Josh Nurse, Tareke Lewis and Javelin Guidry along with safety duo Julian Blackmon and Terrell Burgess, Utah will have their hands full rebuilding their secondary.
“We have five new faces back there as far as guys that will be playing, we lost the entire secondary (from last year),” Whittingham stated. “That’s a complete rebuild and that’s a critical aspect of your defensive structure is to be able to get that secondary together.”
Players to watch for leading up to the season opener at cornerback includes Clark Phillips III, Bronson Boyd, Ja Travis Broughton, Kenzel Lawler, Faybian Marks, Caine Savage, Drew Rawls, LaCarea Pleasant-Johnson and Malone Matalele among others.
Aaron Lowe could be a guy that plays cornerback and safety. R.J. Hubert is expected to start at one of the safety positions after getting some time last year in relief of Julian Blackmon. Vonte Davis, Kamo’i Latu, Nate Ritchie and Ben Renfro are also in the mix to get reps at safety.
3. Get A Starting Running Back Named
The Utes will have to replace their all-time leading rusher Zack Moss, who is now in the NFL with the Buffalo Bills. Moss left big shoes to fill.
“We have to get a running back named. We have three or four candidates to be the lead running back and right now we don’t know who that is going to be,” said Whittingham.
The four (five) players in the mix to be the lead running back is Devin Brumfield, Jordan Wilmore, T.J. Green, Micah Bernard and Ty Jordan.
4. Find Defensive Line Pieces
Utah’s career sack leader Bradlee Anae is also in the NFL with the Dallas Cowboys. John Penisini and Leki Fotu are in the league as well from a unit last season that was among the best in the nation.
“We have some guys to replace,” Whittingham mentioned. “But we have some really good guys in the program coming up through the ranks. We have a good idea of what those replacements are going to be.”
Mika Tafua and Maxs Tupai are both back. Expect them to play opposite each other on the edges. I expect Viane Moala and Fua Pututau to get a good share of the reps at defensive tackl with Pita Tonga, Aliki Vimahi and Tonoa Togiai in the mix.
5. Find Linebackers To Play With Devin Lloyd
Francis Bernard and Devin Lloyd were a tremendous tandem as Utah’s one-two punch at linebacker. Now that Bernard is gone, they will need to find the next side kick to help Lloyd.
“We gotta find guys to play alongside Devin Lloyd because we lost Francis (Bernard), who was so effective for us,” said Whittingham.
Andrew Mata’afa, Hayden Furey, Sione Fotu, Nephi Sewell and JUCO transfer Jeremy Mercier are in the mix.
Position Groups Whittingham Is Excited About
Last season, the offensive line didn’t face many challenges as Utah was able to do what they wanted offensively. Darrin Paulo was the only starter that graduated from the offensive line from last season.
“We do have a lot of positive things going for us,” Whittingham mentioned. “The offensive line, we feel is going to be as talented and as deep as it ever has been. The wide receivers and tight ends as well.”
Nick Ford, Orlando Umana, Braeden Daniels and Simi Moala all return from the 2019 squad. Bamidele Olaseni, Keaton Bills, Alex Harrison, London Bartholomew among others are expected to compete for time. It’s a very deep position group.
Demari Simpkins and Derrick Vickers are the only wide receivers to depart from Utah. Which leaves Bryan Thompson, Solomon Enis, Samson Nacua, Jaylen Dixon and others back. It’s also worth mentioning that Britain Covey is back and is healthy and feels faster than he has ever been.
Devaughn Vele, Connor O’Toole and Money Parks could also get some time. Lots of playmakers for Utah’s quarterbacks.
After a breakout season in 2019, Brant Kuithe has given Utah the best tight end group in the conference. Paired up with Cole Fotheringham, Utah is in great shape as far as the tight end position goes.
Thomas Yassmin, Ali’i Niumatalolo and Mufi Hill-Hunt could contribute as well.
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