‘He’s like Houdini out there’ Yes, Britain Covey is back and he’s going to be fine

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Utes wide receiver Britain Covey (18) makes a long, crazy run as the University of Utah Utes host the Weber State Wildcats, Thursday Aug. 30, 2018 at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City.

There he was, back as that all-so-familiar blur, ducking and dodging, cutting back and forth, the entire field knowing exactly where Britain Covey is, but so many mired in a similarly flustered state trying to stop him from doing what he’s always been able to do.

That is, in case you forgot — and you’re forgiven if you did for a moment because Covey hasn’t been No. 18 the past couple of years — but for a 14-second freeze-frame in time Thursday evening, Utah’s dynamo receiver reminded everyone there will be no readjustment period. Quite the opposite, in fact. There will be none.

Just see how the 5-foot-8 170-pounder handled a busted trick play. Covey pulled up to throw. Nothing there. He tucked the ball and proceeded to showcase that not only is he back, that he’s still capable of being a premiere threat in a Pac-12 offense. In 14 seconds, he made seven Weber State Wildcats whiff, dancing across the field, shifting his weight right to left, left to right, and, well, you’ve probably seen the 38-yard highlight by now.

“He’s like Houdini out there,” Utah defensive back Julian Blackmon said.


It was great, Utah coach Kyle Whittingham obviously stated, to see Covey back to “doing his thing.” He’s a player, Whittingham said, Utah must find at least 15 touches a game offensively, not including his usual punt-return duties.

And to think, two years in Chile left some Utah fans so restless, anxious and waiting. But as soon as Covey returned from his mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in March, the only thing Covey was worried about was whether or not he could shed that missionary fat he gained after falling in love with pastel de choclo, a Chilean cornbread, that he vows he misses more and more every day.

So, deep breaths. No stress — at least specific to Covey. If there was a beat of fear of being missed, rest easy. No. 18 is the same guy he was in 2015, where as a freshman All-American, he pestered opposing defenses with his midfield make-you-miss moves and straightaway speed. In his 2018 debut Thursday, Covey accounted for 117 offensive yards (64 yards rushing, 53 yards receiving on a team-high six receptions).

“It was almost surreal,” he said. “It didn’t hit me until probably midway through the second quarter. I was actually like, ‘Whoa, I’m actually not in Chile anymore.’”

There were, as there usually is, some definitive welcome back moments.

The first punt he fielded resulted in a Utah turnover when teammate Javelin Guidry lost track of the ball and collided with Covey, allowing Weber State to pounce. He was on the receiving end of a vicious hit after backup running back Armand Shyne fumbled early in the fourth quarter. As Covey scrambled to ensure Weber State didn’t return it for a touchdown, he was wiped out.

Those are the hits you don’t get in fall ball. They’re the ones specifically saved for the nights the lights are turned on. It’d been a few years since he’d had a thumping that ear-ringing. That, of course, is part of the position, and at his diminutive size, they always look a little more cringeworthy. Covey knows it.

“I got hit pretty hard right there,” he said.

It’s the last part of the long-awaited return — other than the eventual first touchdown back.

That’ll come in due time, for No. 18, who drew the loudest of cheers when introduced to the crowd at Rice-Eccles Stadium, who made those inside the press box burst into laughter in awe during that broken play turned highlight-reel entry.

“I guess I just went back to my high school quarterback days and just decided to scramble,” Covey said. “It was more just instinct, just running around from the big guys.”

Same as it ever was. Nothing’s changed.

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