Breaking Down Utah Football’s 2023 Position Groups: Safeties

Jul 19, 2023, 5:04 PM

SALT LAKE CITY –Fall camp is under a month away for Utah football and to refresh our minds, we’ll be breaking down each of the Utes’ 2023 position groups.

Every week till “Camp Kyle” kicks off, look for one offensive and one defensive position group per week. Today we talk about a group that has had a long, strong sense of pride for the Utes- the safety room.

Led by one of their own, Morgan Scalley knows a thing or two about what it takes to be a safety at Utah and how important the position is to the whole of what Utah’s defense does.

Taking A Look At Utah’s Safeties.

Out of all of Utah football’s position groups, the safety room might be the most intriguing for the simple fact they have guys who have sort of played a lot, but also sort of haven’t.

Before spring ball there was some concern (mostly from fans) about whether or not this group would have enough depth come fall. This concern was largely due to the departure of heir apparent Clayton Isbell hitting the transfer portal. Upon further review and a little help from the transfer portal, Scalley’s group looks good again with Cole Bishop serving as the experienced anchor.

Aside from Bishop, look for guys like Nate Ritchie who is back from a church mission and played a large role for the Utes in 2020, and Sione Vaki who came on strong to end last season to make some noise.

Scalley and crew also have some young, promising freshman talent that has come along quicker than expected.

A Closer Look At The Tight End Returners

*Bolded names indicate significant experience.

  • Cole Bishop, Junior, played 24 career games, with 19 starts, appeared in all 14 games with 13 starts at safety in 2022, ranks second among active Pac-12 secondary players with 5.7 tackles per game in his career.
  • Brock Nowatzke, Redshirt Freshman, saw no game action in 2022.
  • Jadon Pearson, Junior, appeared as a reserve in 13 games, primarily on special teams.
  • Bryson Reeves, Junior, played in 10 games, tallying seven tackles on defense and special teams.
  • Nate Ritchie, “Freshman”, started all five games at strong safety in 2020, led the secondary with 28 total tackles (4.0 TFL, 1.0 sack), adding one fumble recovery and a pass breakup.
  • Darrien “Bleu” Stewart, Sophomore, played in seven games, primarily on special teams in 2020.
  • Sione Vaki, Sophomore, appeared in all 14 games (five starts), seeing time both on defense and special teams in 2022.

Who Are The New Safeties For Utah?

The Utes had a historic signing class in 2023 and did a good job bringing in some new safety talent.

  • Briton Allen, four-star USC transfer.
  • Ben Durham, Freshman, walk-on from Rancho Santa Margarita, California.
  • Johnathan Hall, Freshman, three-star from Katy, Texas.

Some Words From Morgan Scalley About The Utah Safeties.

Scalley was very high on his group, and the defense as a whole coming out of spring ball but noted the Pac-12 is a tough offensive league and they will need to continue to develop through fall camp.

“It’s a week-to-week deal,” Scalley said. “In this league, with as good of offensive firepower as we have, you’ve got to bring your A-game every single week. Each offense is going to provide different issues for you. The good thing is, I believe we have the talent to be very, very competitive and do well in this league. Now it’s a matter of, do you have the leadership, the depth out of fall camp? Fall camps are a grinder and you’ve got to come to the party healthy, but sometimes that doesn’t always happen, so we’ve got to continue to develop and get the depth we need.”

Michelle Bodkin is the Utah Utes Insider for KSLsports.com and host of both the Crimson Corner Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and The Saturday Show (Saturday from 10 a.m.–12 p.m.) on The KSL Sports Zone. Follow her on TwitterInstagram, and Threads: @BodkinKSLsports

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Breaking Down Utah Football’s 2023 Position Groups: Safeties