If the Utes need a shot of confidence heading into what could be the most challenging schedule they've ever faced, playing in the Pac-12 and all, they should and quite possibly will turn to a man you've never heard of.
A fresh man.
That's the unlikely part.
He's a kid.
His name is Dres Anderson and he's a wide receiver, which is not so unlikely. It is written, after all, straight in the official Wide Receivers Code that you can't play the position without first thinking you're pretty much better than anyone else on the field â¦ a better athlete with better hands and better skills and better speed and, by their own measure, better looks than the other poor schmucks lining up on the other side of the line of scrimmage.
Anderson is a smart guy with a quick wit, a quick word and a 3.5 GPA. He has read the Code. Anderson could have written the Code. And he has yet to play a single down for Utah.
"I've always had speed," he says. "I'm a 4.3 guy. My hands are great. I can make the spectacular catches. I can go high. I can go low. I have great vision after the catch. I can make the big play. That's my best quality. When it's third-and-long, you have to know you can make the play and get the first down. I can do that."
Make it a double-shot.
"But," he continues, "I'm humble. You've got to be humble."
Funny thing about Anderson, who redshirted last season out of Riverside (Calif.) John W. North High School and is slated as a starter at the Z receiver position in his first year of active participation, is that he doesn't come across in person as a big mouth or as big-headed or as boastful. Rather, he exudes self-assuredness and enthusiasm, not just for his own game, but also for the collective game of his teammates.
"Dres lights up a room with his personality," says Aaron Roderick, Utah's wide receivers coach. "He has a lot of confidence but doesn't take it too far. He buys into the team concept."
Anderson flat out believes is absolutely convinced the Utes are the best team in the Pac-12 and they're going to show their business to the rest of the league as soon as the season arrives.
"We don't want anyone to think we're not ready," he says. "We are ready. We're here to win the South [division]. We're as good as any team in the conference. We grind hard, and we work hard. We can play with anyone in the nation ..."
"... If you don't believe in yourself, who's going to believe in you? If you don't believe in yourself, nobody else will."
And why shouldn't he? His father, Flipper Anderson, was a great receiver at UCLA who went on to play in the NFL for a decade. Flipper still holds the NFL record for most receiving yards in a single game, rolling up 336 on 15 receptions against the Saints in 1989, and Dres Anderson talks with his dad daily, "picking his brain." His uncle, Paco Craig, also was a receiver for the Bruins, and then the Detroit Lions.
Belief runs in the family.
It also runs in Roderick, who not only says Anderson has terrific potential, but also that he is the fastest receiver he's seen at Utah:
"In terms of raw ability, Dres is as good as anyone we've had," Roderick says. "He has the tools to be a great, great player. He's fast, but more than that, he knows how to track down a ball, blazing by defenders to go get it."
"I feel like I can live up to all the great receivers here," he says.
Again, enthusiasm, not conceit.
He proclaims the other receivers at Utah are good, too:
"I say, 'Watch out for our receivers,' we call ourselves the 'Air Force.' And I say, 'Watch out for our whole team.' I love our team. I love Utah. I hope the fans are ready. I know we'll be ready."
GORDON MONSON hosts "The Gordon Monson Show" weekdays from 2-6 p.m. on 97.5 FM/1280 AM The Zone. He's at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @GordonMonson.