Utah Defensive Coordinator Morgan Scalley Focused On Defensive Backfield Depth

Mar 14, 2024, 2:00 PM

SALT LAKE CITY – Utah football is a little more extreme on defense than offense in terms of experienced players versus new players which is something defensive coordinator Morgan Scalley is focused on sorting out this spring.

While the defensive line and linebackers return a ton of proven talent, the Utes are starting over at safety and one corner position. Needless to say, reloading depth in those areas is Scalley’s primary focus for spring.

The good news for Utah is that they have typically been a “reload” type of team when it comes to defense, however, that doesn’t mean the urgency to do so is any less.


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Building Depth In Utah’s Defensive Backfield

Utah football was spoiled the past two seasons with safety standouts Cole Bishop and Sione Vaki, however, they are now on to the NFL. They also have to replace a lengthy guy at corner in Miles Battle– also heading to the NFL.

Replacing that kind of talent is always a challenge, but few do it better than Utah. The key however, will be quickly identifying the guys who can fill those spots and giving them all the reps this spring and into fall camp.

“Some positions have great depth, some positions we have new faces- the safety position, the corner position,” Scalley said. “Really the secondary- the backfield right now is the strong focus of finding guys. We’ve got really good bodies there- good athleticism. This is one of those springs- at least in the secondary where it’s a lot more about teaching and finding the right guys to give the reps to. You can only get a certain amount of guys ready. That’s the early job of us coaches is to find those guys and make sure we are feeding them the reps.”

A Few Utes Are Already Standing Out Early Already

Georgia Tech cornerback transfer Kenan Johnson has already earned positive praise in the first few days of practice and Scalley believes it’s his experience that is setting him apart early on.

“Kenan is a guy who has experienced a lot of college football,” Scalley said. “He has a ton of reps under his belt and some good college football at that. For him, it’s just learning our scheme and our terminology, communication is a big factor from corner to safety. His experience and technique and having a ton of reps under his belt is the reason why he’s in that position.”

On the other hand, Tao Johnson has been with the Utes for a few seasons now and appears to be finding his stride at safety after trying out a few spots early on in his career. Scalley went on about a few of Johnson’s traits that make him a good fit at the position.

“Speed. He’s got really good speed over the top,” Scalley said. “He’s got great ball skills. We haven’t necessarily had that over-the-top free safety in a minute. Since maybe Julian Blackmon. Cole and Sione were very good safeties and could play in the backend but Tao, just with his ability to cover ground is really pleasant to see back there. Day one had a nice interception over the top. Ball skills and speed- his athleticism is going to prove to be very beneficial to us.”

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 XInstagram, and Threads: @BodkinKSLsports

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Utah Defensive Coordinator Morgan Scalley Focused On Defensive Backfield Depth