The Utes already know what they have in their No. 1 option at wide receiver. Devaughn Vele’s decision to return for another season meant Utah quarterback Cam Rising would have a familiar target lining up on the outside.
But Utah still had questions at receiver.
Other than Vele, who would emerge as a standout in spring practice? It is still difficult to fully answer that given the number of injuries at receiver this spring. But Utah coach Kyle Whittingham on Tuesday indicated Money Parks and Mike Matthews have looked the part so far.
Parks is a junior who played in every game last year, finishing with 414 yards on 26 catches.
“He has got tremendous speed and a lot of upside,” Whittingham said. “Still too many drops. We got to get those drops worked out. He has good hands, but has to concentrate a bit more.”
Matthews is a true freshman who arrived on campus this winter. He was a four-star receiver, according to 247Sports, from Mission Viejo, Calif., and Whittingham himself has said he’s seen a few similarities between Matthews and Ute great Britain Covey.
Separation at QB2
Brandon Rose, the former scout team quarterback in his second year in the program, is starting to take the reins of the competition and establish himself as the clear-cut backup behind Rising.
“Brandon is probably the guy that has shown out in the process so far,” Whittingham said. “... He got the vast majority of the reps today. He did some good things. He also turned the ball over a couple of times. He is making progress. We are starting to see a little bit more separation.”
Even if it looked like Rose had been taking control for the last week, it is still a rather significant development in the overall context of the quarterback room.
Coming into spring camp, it was expected that Nate Johnson, not Rose, would have the leg up in the competition. Johnson was elevated to the third-string quarterback last year and ran for two touchdowns against Arizona. He played in four games, while Rose never saw any action.
But since spring started, Rose has slowly accumulated a bigger share of the reps. Notably, Johnson has been dealing with a nagging leg injury. Still, Whittingham stood by his assessment that Rose is ahead.
“We haven’t found the backup yet. It is just gravitating in [Rose’s] direction right now,” Whittingham said. “Again, there are eight more practices and we will assess the entire body of work. Maybe we will have found it then.”
When asked what Johnson has to do to catch up at this point, Whittingham hedged to say it needs to be an overall body of work. But accuracy was at the top of the list. Johnson only threw one pass last year, a 16-yard completion.
“He has just got to continue to assimilate the offense and run the offense effectively,” Whittingham said of Johnson. “Make his reads and become more accurate. All of [the quarterbacks] need to be more accurate right now. We are not nearly where we need to be with our completion percentage.”
Whittingham said he would prefer to have the backup quarterback competition done by the end of spring practice — with eight more practices to go. But he did not rule out the battle going into fall camp.
In the past, quarterback competitions at Utah have tended to drag on into the summer.
“We would rather it [sort itself out] now,” Whittingham said. “But if it doesn’t, that is the way it is. The positive is this is for No. 2, 3, 4. Not the for the starter. We know who the starter is. It is not quite as much of a setback in that perspective.”
Utah has its first scrimmage of camp this Saturday. After that, there will be two weeks left and a break for summer.
Whittingham indicated the quarterback situation is still his most outstanding question at this point in camp. But everything else is on pace.
“I would say so,” he finished. “We are seven practices down. With what we needed to accomplish at quarterback and the 15 total practices, I think we are on track.”