Winding up our look at the Utah Utes as they head into spring practice by breaking down the corners and safeties as well as special teams.
The corners are going through a virtual complete overhaul with the loss of starters Reggie Topps and Ryan Lacy and backup Moe Lee. in addition, sophomore backup Terrell Reese announced during the offseason he wanted to transfer to earn more playing time.
The departures leave the Utes looking at a bunch of new faces as possible starters. One key returner could be Keith McGill, a 6-3, 205-pound senior who was highly recruited but has been sidelined with shoulder injuries. If he can stay healthy he should lock down a starting role.
Junior Wykie Freeman is another returner with experience but he will miss spring ball while recovering from an injury.
The gaps leave junior college transfer Davion Orphey (6-0, 187) as a strong candidate to earn a starting role while freshmen Reginald Porter and Justin Thomas are down as backups.
Watching Orphey develop for the Utes will be a key storyline. Orphey, McGill's cousin, originally committed to BYU then switched to the Utes after he was convinced to visit Salt Lake City.
A physical player, Orphey has the potential to turn the corner position from a questionable spot to one of strength for the Utes.
The safeties are a solid group with starters Eric Rowe and Brian Blechen returning along with backups Tyron Morris-Edwards, Quade Chappuis and Charles Henderson.
Junior Joseph Smith is listed as the starting nickel with senior Michael Walker as his backup.
Blechen finished third on the team with 58 tackles despite missing the first three games due to a suspension. However, he had just one interception and admittedly lacked the big plays he became known for in past seasons. Look for him, now that he is a senior, to make this his best year.
Chappuis and Morris-Edwards are proven backups and Walker and Smith both are strong players.
Henderson is a former receiver who has battled knee injuries. If he develops quickly in spring he could see a lot of playing time in the fall.
The Utes signed just three DBs in the spring, Orphey, junior college transfer Tevin Carter and Hipolito Corporan, so there might not be many changes to the depth chart in August.
For special teams, Tom Hackett returns as the punter while freshman Jamie Sutcliffe, sophomore Andy Phillips and freshman Moose Bingham are the candidates for placekicker with the graduation of Coleman Petersen.
Henderson is expected to handle punt returns and kickoff returns along with Dres Anderson.
- Lya Wodraska
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