Devin Brumfield, Jordan Wilmore vying to replace Zack Moss in Utah football backfield

Washington State linebacker Ron Stone Jr. (10) tackles Utah running back Devin Brumfield, left, in the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 28, 2019, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

No one is expecting Jordan Wilmore or Devin Brumfield to be Zack Moss this spring. If that were the expectation, it would be wildly unfair to both players.

Moss finished his legendary Utah career in December with a senior season that included 1,416 rushing yards, 15 touchdowns and Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year honors. As the Utes’ rushing offense shifts away from Moss, Wilmore, a sophomore, and Brumfield, a junior, are expected to be the two primary candidates to take his place.

That process began in earnest on Monday when spring practice got going.

“I think it’s a competitive room,” second-year offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig said. “There’s only one ball, we’re a single-back team, so there’s a lot of guys that are working very hard, that are focused and hungry.”

“We’re a tough outfit, we’ve got a lot of depth at that position,” running backs coach Kiel McDonald told The Salt Lake Tribune. “These guys know how to work, they know what we’re working for. They’re focused, so right now, it’s really good.”

Despite losing Moss, the presence of Brumfield and Wilmore ensures the cupboard is not bare. Brumfield played in all 14 games last season finishing with 59 carries for 273 yards and two touchdowns, while Wilmore played in 12 games, tallying 49 carries for 209 yards and a score.

Yes, Brumfield and Wilmore have both done some things at the Power Five level, but what they’re trying to do now is uncharted waters. Neither has been a featured back, neither has carried the ball more than 59 times in a season. By comparison, Moss had 235 carries in 13 games, an average of more than 18 per contest.

“I think I’ve just decided to step up and be more of a vocal leader,” Brumfield said. “I kind of just sat in the back last year when Zack was here and let him take over things. I’ve tried to fill that void for our room.”

“Wide open, wide open there,” Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said when asked about the running back competition. “Jordan Wilmore and Devin Brumfield and T.J. Green, there’s a lot of guys that are going to be vying for those carries. That should be an interesting battle as well.”

McDonald was adamant that more than just Brumfield and Wilmore will see time this spring with the first-team offense. Green, a redshirt junior who has 59 carries for 258 yards in two seasons, could be a factor, as could redshirt freshman Micah Bernard.

One X-factor to consider is Ty Jordan, a multidimensional three-star recruit out of West Mesquite High School in Texas. Jordan, who was at one time committed to Texas, will not arrive in Salt Lake City until this summer.

“He’s got a skill set,” McDonald said. “He’s explosive, he’s a tough cookie, he’s smart, so it’s not out of the realm of possibility that he helps us. That kid is highly recruited and if he can come in here and prove that he can make plays at a high level, he’ll get the opportunity to have reps.”