Kyle Whittingham earlier this week promised that the University of Utah would release a “definitive depth chart” on Thursday morning.
As far as the quarterback position goes, the depth chart was indeed definitive.
Charlie Brewer, a graduate transfer from Baylor engaged in a fall camp quarterback competition with Cam Rising, was officially named Whittingham’s starter ahead of the Sept. 2 opener vs. Weber State at Rice-Eccles Stadium (5:30 p.m., Pac-12 Networks).
The Salt Lake Tribune reported Monday morning that Brewer, who started 39 of the 44 games he played in across four seasons at Baylor, had won the job. Rising, who won the job last fall but is coming off major surgery to his throwing shoulder, will be Brewer’s backup.
“They’ve made it tough the entire time, and it’s going to be a close call,” Whittingham said Saturday, minutes after Utah closed camp with a second live scrimmage. “We feel like we’ve got enough of a body of work now to make the call. They’re both really good players, and we have a really good situation, picking from two guys that are both quality quarterbacks.”
Bam Olaseni ‘OR’ Jaren Kump at left tackle
Whittingham has referenced a couple of times recently that there are health issues along the offensive line and that he’s had a hard time getting his five-best offensive linemen on the field for practice.
Thursday’s depth chart reveal showed a question at left tackle as senior Bam Olaseni and second-year freshman Jaren Kump were separated by an “OR.”
Kump is Utah’s best tackle, but Olaseni has the size (6-foot-8, 330 pounds) to be a force. Whether Olaseni is finally ready to break through and make a meaningful contribution remains to be seen.
Once everyone is healthy, there could be musical chairs at the two tackle spots. Kump started all five games last season at right tackle, while fourth-year sophomore Simi Moala started the final four games at left tackle. Among the three, Olaseni is the biggest question mark.
In the immediacy, the projected starters for Weber State are Olaseni at left tackle, Braeden Daniels at left guard, versatile two-time All-Pac-12 lineman Nick Ford at center, redshirt freshman Sataoa Laumea at right guard, and Moala at right tackle.
As expected, running back by committee
As Whittingham has said all along, he will play Micah Bernard, Chris Curry, TJ Pledger and Tavion Thomas against Weber State, with the hope that one of those guys emerges within the first game or two to take over the majority of carries.
Bernard is entering his third year in the program, while Curry (LSU), Pledger (Oklahoma), and Thomas (Independence Community College) will all make their Ute debuts. Of those four, Thomas, who began his career at Cincinnati, received the most buzz during camp.
Of note, Thomas is listed at 221 pounds after he came into camp out of shape at 235 pounds, per Whittingham.
This feels similar to last season, when Bernard, Devin Brumfield, Ty Jordan and Jordan Wilmore comprised Utah’s by-committee approach. It took Jordan, who was killed last Christmas in an accidental shooting, fewer than two games to take over the position, eventually earning Pac-12 Offensive Rookie of the Year honors.
Hayden Furey grabs stud linebacker spot
Great story here, with Saratoga Springs native Hayden Furey in line to start at stud linebacker.
Furey walked on to the team in 2019, has played eight games across two seasons, all on special teams, and has now worked himself into a starting role on a major college football team.
No surprises otherwise as Devin Lloyd and Nephi Sewell are entrenched at the other two linebacker spots, but one surprise is that Ethan Calvert is not listed on the two-deep chart.
Calvert was not expected to start, but he was in the mix at one of the second-team spots. Calvert was one of four four-star commits in Utah’s 2021 recruiting class, and is the third-highest rated recruit in the history of the program.
Van Fillinger and Brandon McKinney
Outside of Brewer vs. Rising, the big camp positional battles were at defensive end and safety.
Based on recent revelations from Whittingham that second-year freshman Van Fillinger was working as a first-team defensive end and Washington transfer Brandon McKinney had slid into the open strong-safety spot, it comes as no surprise that both will start vs. Weber State.
McKinney made the most sense all along, specifically from an experience standpoint. He played in 44 games across four seasons with the Huskies, including starting in a Rose Bowl. Fillinger had been locked in a battle with classmate Xavier Carlton but took control of that battle more than a week ago.
Money Parks hit the board at WR
It’s no secret that Utah likes its wide receiver depth up to No. 5 with Britain Covey, Theo Howard, Solomon Enis, Devaughn Vele and Jaylen Dixon.
No. 6, it was revealed Thursday is second-year freshman Money Parks, who played in one game last fall, the opener vs. USC.
The knee-jerk reaction there is, what about Munir McClain? The USC transfer has played very little college football, suffering a season-ending knee injury in 2019 after three games, then was suspended for the 2020 season.
If McClain is healthy, he has enough talent to be a factor for the Utes.