Questions about the health of Utah running back Zack Moss and receiver Britain Covey have persisted throughout August, but coach Kyle Whittingham declared the players “ready to roll” in Thursday night’s season opener at BYU.
Covey has been rehabilitating from knee surgery. Whittingham had not updated Moss’ participation in practice since early August, citing the team’s policy of discussing only season-ending injuries. Responding to a follow-up question about whether Moss would be available in Provo, Whittingham said Monday, “Yes, oh, yeah, absolutely … unless something happens between now and then.”
Utah’s first update to the preseason depth chart confirmed junior Devonta’e Henry-Cole as Moss’ primary backup. Whittingham also expects freshman Jordan Wilmore and sophomore Devin Brumfield to get some carries, although Moss will have a big workload.
“We like to establish the run, that's never changed, and Zack is one of the best backs in the country, so he'll certainly get his share of touches,” Whittingham said during his weekly news conference.
Moss needs 569 rushing yards to break Eddie Johnson's Utah career record (3,219). He gained 1,092 yards in nine games last season before being injured. Covey led Utah with 60 catches for 639 yards before being hurt in the Pac-12 championship game.
Utah didn't make players available to the media Monday, due to the short week of preparation.
Defensively, cornerback Tareke Lewis earned a starting spot in competition with Josh Nurse. The other development in the secondary is freshman JaTravis Broughton’s becoming the backup to Lewis, with Nurse playing behind Jaylon Johnson at the other corner. Nurse also will return kickoffs, along with Covey.
Lewis “slightly edged out” Nurse, Whittingham said, adding that “where Josh Nurse is now as opposed to when he first made the transition [from receiver] to DB is night and day.”
Freshman end Fua Pututau has played his way into the defensive line rotation — joining his brother, Hauati, a junior defensive tackle.
On the offensive line, senior Paul Toala and freshman Johnny Maea are listed as co-starters at right guard, with freshman Braeden Daniels having moved to left guard as a previously announced starter. The tackles are senior Darrin Paulo and sophomore Nick Ford, with junior Orlando Umana at center.
The reserve linemen on the depth chart are freshman Simi Moala at left tackle, senior Kyle Lanterman at left guard, senior Noah Reneau-Myers at center and senior Alex Locklear at right tackle.
Reneau-Myers (Washington State) and Locklear (Marshall) are graduate transfers; so is kicker Andrew Strauch (UCLA), who won the job in preseason camp. Strauch is the backup punter behind freshman Ben Lennon and freshman walk-on Jadon Redding is the backup to Strauch for both kickoffs and field goals.
Two former Utes made Utah State’s lineup as graduate transfers: receiver Siaosi Mariner and tight end Caleb Repp, who’s listed as a co-starter for the Aggies’ opener Friday at Wake Forest. At Indiana, former Ute quarterback Jack Tuttle failed to earn the starting job that went to redshirt freshman Michael Penix Jr.