Utah Cornerbacks Playing Five Games In 2020 Was ‘Invaluable’

Mar 24, 2021, 10:04 AM
JaTravis Broughton - Utah Utes Spring Football...
Utah cornerback JaTravis Broughton. (Photo courtesy of Utah Athletics)
(Photo courtesy of Utah Athletics)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Entering the 2020 college football season, the Utah cornerbacks had a combined zero starts under their belts.

After losing Jaylon Johnson, Josh Nurse and Javelin Guidry to graduation and the NFL in 2019, Utah had to turn to young, talented cornerbacks in 2020.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, college eligibility was frozen, which means no one lost a year in 2020. With Utah playing five games last season and with a young cornerback group, it was “invaluable” to the position group according to Utah cornerbacks coach Sharrieff Shah.

“Invaluable because on paper, it’ll be the same group and only by freshmen, that’ll be the designation that falls at the end of the name,” Shah told the media on Wednesday morning. “But in terms of accumulated reps, game time experience, I mean, absolutely invaluable. Because we can talk all day in the film room, we can get out and practice and go against our own guys, but when you have an opportunity to play a real game, make a real tackle, get a pbu, a potential interception. As a young player, it develops and builds confidence that it’s just no substitute for so it really will pay I think massive dividends for us going forward.”

Shah said that going into spring ball and the 2021 season, he is looking for his players to emerge as leaders on the field. As of right now, two players have emerged in JaTravis Broughton and Clark Phillips III. Broughton thought it was massive to get a free year in 2020.

“It’s been very crucial,” Broughton stated. “The learning experience, sometimes it takes a while for a player to develop and I can see all my teammates develop over those five games. We are gonna come out strong for the opener this year.”

Clark Phillips finished his first season at Utah with a bang. He had a pick six to seal Utah’s comeback win over Washington State in the season finale. The potential is there for Phillips, who is the highest rated recruit to sign with Utah in school history. Now, the “Super Freshman” is eager to grow and learn from the 2020 season.

“I think it was a blessing because coming up this year, I’ll still be a freshman,” Phillips said. That year (2020) I still gained great film, still made some mistakes that I know I’ll grow from and then as a team, we just gained five games of experience.”

Malone Mataele emerged as the starting nickel for the Utes, which under Kyle Whittingham’s system is the hardest position to play on the defensive side of the ball. The game reps he received in 2020 will pay off in the long run.

“I think it was very beneficial and very important for a lot of the young guys,” Mataele mentioned. “In general, pretty much everyone in the group just to be able to get a little bit of experience and some game time under our belts. I think that was very beneficial coming into the spring and ultimately leading into this fall.”

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

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