The Utah Utes officially end their offseason Monday with the start of camp. But unofficially, last season never really ended for the Utes, who used the frustration of a 5-7 record as motivation for their summer workouts.
Utah receiver Dres Anderson said he and his teammates have worked harder than ever during their voluntary workouts so they could change their fortune in 2013.
“Everybody is ready to go,” Anderson said. “We’ve been running and running and working on direction changes and things like that. I’m ready to start running and catching.”
The 2013 season features a challenging schedule with Oregon and Stanford replacing Cal and Washington.
But before they can worry about their opponents, the Utes will focus on themselves.
Among the priorities in camp are finding a third receiver, solidifying the corners and developing depth along the lines.
The Utes feel they have two proven receivers in Anderson and Kenneth Scott, but the third spot is up for grabs.
Right now 6-foot-4 senior Anthony Denham is slotted to start, but he has yet to assert himself and has been plagued by injuries. He might have a slight edge based on his experience with the Utes. Freshmen Brian Allen and Delshawn McClellon and senior Sean Fitzgerald, another player whose career unfortunately has had more injuries than highlights, will also get a chance to earn the role.
Another candidate, Quinton Pedroza, was dismissed from the team in June for violating team rules.
The Utes have high hopes that Andre Lewis, a 6-3, 210-pound junior college transfer, can learn the offense quickly and be a factor.
Lewis, out of Diablo Valley College in California, has been with the Utes all summer and has been impressive in workouts from a fitness standpoint, but the big question is can he catch the ball going against a Pac-12 defense and hang onto that ball?
Dropped passes plagued the Utes last year and were a theme in the spring, too. The issue was clearly weighing on coach Kyle Whittingham at Pac-12 media day.
“It was a disappointing year for the receivers last year,” Whittingham said of a group that averaged just 190.7 yards a game. “They’ll be the first to admit that, and I know they are going to come into camp ready to change it.”
Defensively, the Utes must solidify their cornerbacks. Senior Keith McGill and freshman Justin Thomas are penciled in as starters but Whittingham wasn’t happy with the effort he saw in spring.
“That is a priority area,” Whittingham said. “We need guys to step up and separate themselves.”
Another key area that will get a lot of looks is quarterback, where backups Brandon Cox and Adam Schulz both had strong springs to keep the heat on returner Travis Wilson.
Whittingham said the starting role is Wilson’s job to lose, but he likes the way all the quarterbacks are developing.
“We have some good quarterbacks,” he said. “The issue is, they’re all just freshmen and sophomores.”
Utah Utes’ key dates
Monday • Camp opens
Aug. 13 • First scrimmage
Aug. 24 • Camp ends
Aug. 29 • Season opener vs. Utah State
Utah’s camp rundown
Who to watch • Backup running back James Poole and JC transfer receiver Andre Lewis are among those who could earn larger roles with a good showing in camp.
Who isn’t here • Running back Devontae Booker and defensive back Tevin Carter, both JC transfers, have yet to complete the academic requirements necessary to enroll at Utah. It’s unknown when either will join the Utes.