Red All Over is a weekly newsletter covering University of Utah athletics. Subscribe here.
Observers of Utah’s basketball program were mildly alarmed this week when forward Donnie Tillman filed for early eligibility in the NBA draft. Following the news that center Jayce Johnson is in the NCAA transfer portal, Tillman’s move seemed like another setback.
My interpretation? If anything, the way that Tillman is viewing his basketball future should be considered healthy for himself and the Utes. Tillman's going through the NBA's evaluation process in advance of his junior season is a lot better than going into the transfer portal, from Utah's standpoint.
Sedrick Barefield did the same thing last spring, and he became a better player as a senior. That should be true of Tillman who, unlike other players around the country, has not published any farewell letter to fans.
May 29 is the deadline for underclassmen to withdraw from the draft. While allowing for any possibility, I certainly would expect Tillman to rejoin the Utes by then.
Stories of the week
Johnson, who also is an NBA early entry candidate, appears less and less likely all the time to return to Utah for his senior season, judging by his reported visit to Nebraska this weekend. Meanwhile, Utah’s 2019-20 roster got even younger, with the signing of Texas prep guard Brendan Wenzel (TRIB).
The NFL draft starts Thursday night. The vigil will intensify for several Utah players, beginning Friday night and continuing through Saturday. Specialists rarely are drafted, but the Utes’ Mitch Wishnowsky and Matt Gay could become exceptions (TRIB).
It also could be a history-making weekend for the Barton brothers, Jackson and Cody, although they won’t quite match last year’s achievement of two brothers from Virginia Tech (TRIB).
After once comprising a safety tandem at Utah, Marquise Blair and Chase Hansen will be interesting to monitor as the draft unfolds (TRIB).
Utah is positioned to have a big impact in the 2020 draft, with defensive linemen Bradlee Anae and Leki Fotu having stayed in school for their senior seasons (TRIB).
Utah’s gymnastics program ran into another round of tough competition in the NCAA Championships, falling short of the four-team finals in the meet’s new format (TRIB).
And then came the news that co-coach Megan Marsden was retiring, after she decided “several months ago” that 2019 would be her last season (TRIB).
Ute golf coach Garrett Clegg and his team deserve credit for a big breakthrough in the school’s eighth year of Pac-12 membership. Maybe this achievement is not quite like the Utah baseball team’s winning a conference championship, but a tie for fifth place in the Pac-12 tournament is remarkable for the Ute golfers, after they finished last in each of their first seven appearances in the event (TRIB).
Pac-12 expert Jon Wilner provided a rundown of the conference’s NBA early entry players (MERC).
The Athletic’s Chantel Jennings took a thorough look at Utah’s football program, going into the 2019 season (ATHLETIC).
Athlon Sports contributor John Coon analyzed the Utes’ schedule (ATHLON).
Athletic department news
• It didn’t come in the seventh inning, but Alyssa Barrera’s game-winning grand slam in the bottom of the sixth vs. Washington provided a dramatic moment for Utah’s rough softball season. The Utes’ 5-4 victory over a No. 3-ranked team came after they had lost the first two games of the series by a total of 24-2. Utah (15-29, 4-11 Pac-12) will open a three-game series Friday night at No. 2-ranked UCLA.
• Utah’s baseball team also enjoyed a breakthrough against a highly-ranked team. After three extra-innings losses to top-tier teams in the conference, including a 12-inning defeat to start the series vs. Arizona State, the Utes beat ASU 6-3 in the series finale. Utah (12-22, 4-14 Pac-12) will play three games at No. 1-ranked UCLA, starting Friday.
• To complete the Los Angeles theme of the week, Utah’s beach volleyball team is competing in the Pac-12 tournament, hosted by USC. Utah is seeded No. 8 among the nine teams, and opens the tournament vs. No. 9 Oregon.
• With the academic year winding down, Utah staged the annual Crimson Carpet Awards on Monday, recognizing outstanding performances by student-athletes. I’ll take a periodic look at various award-winners as the spring and summer go along, starting with this treat for Britain Covey fans. The Ute football player received a Ute Proud award (swimmer Darby Wayner was the women’s winner) “as presented to the male and female student-athletes who show pride in representing both their school and team, while maintaining high moral values. These individuals are constantly striving to push both themselves and their fellow student-athletes.”
Here’s the accompanying clip of highlights, fitting the “Video Game Covey” description. Warning: It ends with the punt-return touchdown that would have clinched a victory at Washington State, but was nullified by a penalty.