What To Pay Attention To During Camp Kyle
SALT LAKE CITY- The day has finally arrived. After a long summer of no college football that ended up being filled with mind-numbing conference realignment speculation and rumors, fall camp- or “Camp Kyle” as it’s fondly referred to for the Utes kicks off today. It also happens to be the one-month mark till Utah boards a plane for Gainesville to take on the Florida Gators in one of the most anticipated season-openers in recent memory. Before we get into all of that hoopla though, we must take a page out of head coach Kyle Whittingham’s playbook and “respect the process” which essentially means no skipping ahead to the “fun” parts just yet.
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With that said, there are a few things I will be personally paying attention to as Camp Kyle gets going.
Camp Kyle Watch List
- Depth Management. Utah has an embarrassment of riches at several spots that they’ve never had before in the Pac-12 era and it’s a great problem to have. One of the things I will be interested in hearing and learning over the coming weeks is how the Utes will manage their talented depth at tight end, linebacker, running back and even quarterback. Some of these spots have guys we all know will be the focal points of their position groups, but have some intriguing prospects in the wings that will likely be used in rotation. How will those rotations end up looking come kick-off? What kinds of special formations and packages will we see to keep as many players involved as possible?
- Who Will Be Replacing Devin Lloyd And Nephi Sewell? Yes, linebacker is a deep position for the Utes, but it still doesn’t change that they will have to go through the process of finding their new mainstays for the 2022 season. The great news is there are options aplenty. Karene Reid and Hayden Furey are the two most experienced linebackers for the Utes and certainly seem to figure into the plans. Mohamoud Diabate is also very experienced from his time at Florida, though not in Utah’s defense, but there have been some rave reviews about what he brings to the table. Ethan and Josh Calvert have been in Utah’s program for a while, but have yet to make the field despite being supremely talented. The Utes also welcomed freshmen Lander Barton and Justin Medlock this past spring with both turning heads very early on.
- QB2. There is no doubt Cam Rising is the guy at quarterback for the Utes in 2022, but there are still some questions about who his backup will be. Fans got a very small taste of Bryson Barnes last year in the Rose Bowl when Barnes came in off the bench for Rising after a concussion knocked him out of the game. Needing a touchdown bad, Barnes, the pig farmer, delivered the score for his team with nerves of steal to tight end Dalton Kincaid, giving Utah a chance to win the game. Barnes continued to impress the coaches through spring ball showing that he is more than capable of being “the guy” if needed. However, the Utes also have a rare talent in Ja’Quinden Jackson who seems to be finding himself after being rattled by the back-to-back deaths of friends and teammates Ty Jordan and Aaron Lowe. Jackson has a lot to play for being motivated to keep his friends’ memories alive and showed very well in Utah’s spring game.
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- The JuCo Transfers. Utah has a strong history with JuCo transfers with their latest success coming in running back Tavion Thomas. This offseason Utah went out and got a few more guys from the Junior College ranks and it will be interesting to see if any of them make a quick impact like Thomas did last year. Wide receivers Tiquan Gilmore and Luca Caldarella, along with safety Jadon Pearson all have good opportunities ahead of them in fall camp.
- How Quickly Does The Offensive Line Get Settled? Last year it took the Utes a while to get settled at offensive line mostly due to some dings and bruises. However, both offensive line coach Jim Harding and Whittingham noted in spring they needed to do a better job this season of figuring out who their best five are faster and letting them settle. Both Harding and Whitt were confident they are about 12 deep on the offensive line, but allowing the guys to find a rhythm early will be key heading into a 2022 season that could be program-changing if all the cards fall in place.
- Who Steps Up At Wide Receiver? Utah has bodies in the receiver room, but production has been a struggle through the years. Offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig was very clear this spring that he wants the Utes to be more vertical in their attack in 2022, making opponents have to pick their poison between the tight ends and running backs as well. Both Devaughn Vele and Solomon Enis have stepped up in a big way as leaders of the group according to position coach Chad Bumphis, but will that translate on the field? The Utes also have a few newcomers in this room to keep an eye on including Tao Johnson, Sydney Mbanasor, as well as a few other more “seasoned” guys in Jaylen Dixon, Money Parks, and Makai Cope.
- Special Teams. This might be the biggest overall question mark the Utes have heading into Camp Kyle that also happens to not be as big of a concern. Yes, you always want to be firing on all cylinders in all three phases of the game, but you can get away with special teams a little if you are working with a great offense and defense. With that said, special teams were a bug-a-boo at times for the Utes in 2021 and most certainly helped to cost the team a Rose Bowl win when the punter fumbled the ball in the second half of the game leading to an easy Ohio State score. Normally, the Utes have been solid at special teams, but last year had some shaky moments like the Rose Bowl that caused unnecessary problems for Whittingham’s crew all season. Can Utah find a passible formula that gives them average results on special teams all while finding a replacement for Britain Covey who was the lone bright spot for the unit in 2021?
Not The Usual Names To Watch (Listen) For
There are so many intriguing athletes to keep tabs on this fall that it would be hard to make a wrong choice. However, in an attempt to narrow things down for you, the fan, I asked someone close to the program to give me five names they think people need to play attention to who aren’t the usual suspects.
In no particular order:
- Sydney Mbanasor, wide receiver
- Sione Vaki, safety
- Logan Kendall, tight end
- Connor O’Toole, defensive end
- Gabe Reid, defensive end
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