Utah football: Changes in offense lead to changes in Christopher's game
With oversized, black-rimmed glasses and brightly colored green shoes, Utah receiver DeVonte Christopher cuts quite a style walking around campus.
Unfortunately for the senior receiver, his style on the football field hasn't been as sharp.
Christopher, Utah's leading receiver the past two seasons, has just 18 catches for 199 yards and one touchdown this year. Saturday's loss to Oregon State was a new low. Christopher not only didn't have a catch, but he also fumbled the ball on a pitch when the Utes were on Oregon State's 3-yard line.
From the miscues to the low number of receptions, Christopher's season has been one of more frustrations than big plays.
"It's definitely not what I had envisioned coming into the season," he said.
Christopher took the blame for his poor play but said Utah's evolving offense has affected him since he has been through a new offensive coordinator every year.
"I'm not using it as an excuse, but it's definitely a factor," he said. "Five different coordinators in five years, there is no building on top of building. It really isn't an excuse, but it's a factor when you have five coaches running their own systems in certain ways."
Christopher said his personal struggles in the offense have been magnified with the loss of veteran starter Jordan Wynn, with whom he had a good connection because the two watched hours and hours of film together.
He and freshman Travis Wilson don't yet have that chemistry.
"That receiver-quarterback continuity has to be there," he said. "It's something me and Travis need to get on the same page because we have been back and forth and up and down ever since he has been the quarterback. We have to figure out how to connect."
Wilson said he knows the veteran is struggling and won't stop going to him despite Christopher's mistakes.
"I'll keep throwing him the ball," he said. "Whatever he needs, I'm there for him."
His absence is particularly noticeable because the Utes are desperate for big playmakers.
While his career has always suffered from some inconsistency in catches per game, Christopher has consistently delivered some huge plays for the Utes. Among his highlights was his game-tying, fourth-down catch against Georgia Tech in the Sun Bowl, his 65-yard catch against Arizona State that was the Utes' longest play last year, and his touchdown catch off a tipped pass against BYU in 2010.
This year, Christopher, who has five 100-yard games in his career, has an 18-yard touchdown catch against USC as his season highlight.
With Christopher struggling, the Utes are turning more to tight end Jake Murphy and sophomore Kenneth Scott.
Murphy leads the Utes with 22 catches and 239 yards, while Scott has three touchdown catches.
A lanky receiver with great leaping ability, Scott has replaced Christopher as a starter, putting the veteran in the unusual position of battling for a role midseason.
"He has to keep working and doing everything right in practice," Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said of Christopher. "He's a guy who has done a lot of good things for us in the past and he has made some big catches, like in the bowl game against Georgia Tech last year.
"He has given us a lot of big plays over the years. But right now, he is in a funk and has to fight his way out of that and work himself into the rotation."
Christopher said he isn't getting discouraged, even if he sounds like it.
"My confidence is still up," he said. "It's not like I'm the only one struggling. We are at 2-5 as a team and ranked last in offense. It's a combination of a lot of things I'm not trying to say that is the reason I am struggling. I am my own person."
Christopher by season
Year G Rec Yds TD
2009 12 2 38 0
2010 12 39 660 6
2011 11 42 663 5
2012 7 18 199 1
Cal at Utah
P Saturday, 7:45 p.m.
TV • Pac-12 Network