Most often, receivers are known for their leaping catches, breakaway abilities and even touchdown orchestrations.
But not Utah’s Anthony Denham, whose reputation hinges more on what he isn’t doing with the ball rather than what he does with it.
Denham, Utah’s 6-foot-4, 222-pound senior, is enjoying bulldozing would-be defenders this season as much as he likes catching the ball.
It’s a role he acknowledges he never gave much thought to until joining the Utes, but has come to love it.
“A lot of receivers spend a lot of time working on catching and running routes and not a lot of time blocking, but that is a big part of what we do here and I’ve learned to take pride in it,” he said. “That is what makes the run game better and opens up the passing. Teams expect you to run routes but not open up holes for running backs, but receivers should be known for being physical.”
Denham’s efforts haven’t gone unnoticed. Utah coach Kyle Whittingham credited the receivers’ blocking efforts for helping make the offense much more efficient this year, particularly against Stanford when the Utes used running back Bubba Poole extensively with quick swing passes into the flats. Denham and the other receivers cleared the way for him, helping Poole total 75 yards on seven receptions.
“That’s something we stress; what are you doing when you don’t have the ball in your hands,” Whittingham said. “It’s extremely important and those guys have really embraced that and taken it to heart.”
This isn’t to say that Denham prefers a supporting role in the passing game to getting the ball in his hands. He is still a receiver at heart, and likes getting his catches as much as the next guy. However, the blocking role has allowed him to get more time in Utah’s offense and with his hard work has come more opportunities.
After playing sparingly last year and finishing with 11 catches for 135 yards, Denham already has 16 catches for 220 yards this season.
Not surprisingly, he savors going across the middle.
“I love catching in traffic,” he said. “I think I’m 100 percent in those situations. I am a physical person and being hit when you catch the ball is way easier to me than an open field catch because you have to hone in on the ball and see more of a narrow view. A lot of people don’t like contact but I love it.”
He has taken his share of hits and was shaken up in both the Weber State and Stanford games, but feels he has delivered more poundings than he has taken in offensive coordinator Dennis Erickson’s offense.
“He has put me in positions to show what I’ve got and my potential,” he said of Erickson.
Denham knows he may never be as fleet-footed as Dres Anderson, Utah’s leading receiver, but he has found success in his role and is embracing it, or rather knocking down the competition.
“We’re all a team and we run great routes and open things up for each other,” he said. “I’m taking pride in it.”
Vitals • 6-foot-4, 222 pounds, senior.
From • Monterey Park, Calif.
Of note • Attended East L.A. College before joining the Utes in 2011. … Had 11 catches for 135 yards in 2012. … His 80-yard touchdown play against Weber State was the 10th-longest passing play in Utah’s history. … Was an All-Conference receiver at East L.A. College. … Also lettered in basketball and track in high school.
Utah at Arizona
P Saturday, 8 p.m.
TV • Pac-12 Network