The Hallandale Trio will be restored this season, wearing Nos. 1, 2 and 3 for Utah's offense. That's because No. 7 is coming back, and the potential departure of No. 6 will give him more opportunity to play.
The numbers game remains a challenge for Devonta’e Henry-Cole, at his position. He missed the 2018 season with a wrist injury and easily could be overlooked in the analysis of Utah’s running backs, with Zack Moss deferring his NFL ambitions to play as a senior and several promising young backs in the program. Yet if Armand Shyne transfers, a move he’s reportedly making after missing Tuesday’s practice, everybody moves up one spot on a crowded depth chart.
The 5-foot-8 Henry-Cole possesses “an element that we always need here at Utah, which is explosiveness,” said running backs coach Kiel McDonald.
Henry-Cole got some work with the first-team offense Tuesday, when the Utes staged their fourth session of spring practice after returning from the school's spring break. Coach Kyle Whittingham didn't address Shyne's absence, while saying generally that college football is “a different world now,” with the NCAA doing more to facilitate transfers. Utah will be back on the field Thursday.
Shyne could play immediately at another school as a graduate transfer, rather than back up Moss as a senior. And not even the No. 2 job has been guaranteed to Shyne, whose production dropped off after a sensational game against Oregon in his first week as Moss’ replacement. Shyne rushed for 174 yards on 26 carries vs. the Ducks; he totaled 172 yards on 57 attempts in Utah’s last four games.
END OF THE ROAD?
Utah running back Armand Shyne reportedly intends to transfer, after starting the last five games of 2018 in place of the injured Zack Moss. Shyne's statistics in those games:
Oregon – 26 carries, 174 yards.
Colorado – 17 carries, 55 yards, one touchdown.
BYU – 15 carries, 47 yards, two touchdowns.
Washington – 11 carries, 37 yards.
Northwestern – 14 carries, 33 yards.
Ute receiver Demari Simpkins wore Henry-Cole’s No. 7 last season in a tribute to his fellow Florida product. Simpkins originally switched in August to No. 3, creating a 1-2-3 sequence for Utah’s Hallandale High School group with quarterback Tyler Huntley and Moss.
Simpkins is back in No. 3 this spring, while Moss’ rehabilitation of a knee injury creates more practice repetitions for Henry-Cole and sophomores Devin Brumfield and TJ Green. High school recruits Jordan Wilmore and Micah Bernard will arrive on campus this summer.
“Everybody sees the talent, but this talent needs to continue to develop into true, solid running backs,” McDonald said. “What I see with this young group is they just need experience. We need as many reps as we can get … we just need work.”
Henry-Cole has shown glimpses of his ability during a weird three years at Utah. He voided a redshirt season in 2016 by getting one carry in a game at Oregon State in mid-October, when the coaching staff was desperate for help (due to injuries to Moss and Shyne) and unsure what Joe Williams would provide after temporarily leaving the team. Henry-Cole produced 279 yards on 55 yards as a sophomore, playing behind Moss. He then sat out last season, although the blessing was he still had a redshirt year available.
In early February, Henry-Cole tweeted a message to fans: “I think you all forgot about me ... just know I’m back.”
So he's a junior now, battling with younger players for carries in relief of Moss. His pass-catching skills may get him on the field, along with his speed. Asked about a long run in Tuesday's practice, Henry-Cole said, “I'm going to get a lot of those this year. That's just a little preview.”
Though standing only 5-8, he weighs 194 pounds and Henry-Cole prides himself on being able to run inside. He likes new offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig’s scheme with more zone blocking and downhill, power running.
Missing last season made him hungry to play, as he tried to turn the year into a learning experience. Thanks to Simpkins, Henry-Cole said, “It was nice seeing my number on the field.”
He just would prefer to be out there himself.