The Utes’ biggest issue on offense right now is obvious to coordinator Andy Ludwig.
Cam Rising’s ACL? No.
Changes along the offensive line? Nope.
“Depth at wide receiver would be the No. 1 concern,” Ludwig said without hesitation toward the end of Utah’s spring camp. “I feel really good where we are with Devaughn Vele, Money Parks. Mike Matthews has come in and done a really good job. ... But that would be the one gray area as we wrap up spring ball.”
And that was before receivers Tiquan Gilmore and Chris Reed both entered the transfer portal two days after the 22 Forever Game. Both played sparingly in 2022, and how much of a role either would have had in 2023 remained to be seen. But the point remains: In a room that already lacked depth, two more guys walking out the door didn’t help in terms of building depth and identifying viable options.
So, now what?
Indiana transfer Emery Simmons, a 6-foot-1 graduate transfer with 27 games of Power Five experience, is on the way this summer after posting 27 catches for 408 yards and a touchdown in 12 games last season for the Hoosiers. Beyond Simmons, more help could be on the horizon.
The Utes are currently targeting junior college transfer Trejan Bridges to help bolster its receiving corps. Bridges took an official visit to Utah during the team’s spring game last weekend.
A former four-star, top-70 recruit in the class of 2019, Bridges spent 2019 and 2020 at Oklahoma, and 2022 at East Los Angeles College. At ELAC in 2022, Bridges caught 59 passes for 872 yards and eight touchdowns in 12 games.
Bridges is a talented receiver, but still has criminal charges pending against him in Oklahoma. He was dismissed from Sooners in the spring of 2021 by then-head coach Lincoln Riley amid robbery allegations. A man has accused Bridges and two of his teammates of robbing him of marijuana at gunpoint, according to reports.
Bridges has pleaded not guilty on counts of robbery, conspiracy and aiding and abetting with a dangerous weapon. The case is scheduled for a status conference Aug. 9.
Utah’s summer conditioning program on campus begins May 29, which means head coach Kyle Whittingham essentially has a month to figure this out if he wants any transfer portal additions present and accounted for by then. But at this point, his receivers room is essentially Vele, a fifth-year junior who broke out last season with 55 catches for 695 yards and five touchdowns, Parks, a fourth-year junior who proved capable in 2022, and a lot of questions.
“Everything is calculated, and we’re going to try to improve the room, we need to improve the room and the depth,” Whittingham said Friday morning, speaking generally about the team’s wide receiver situation. “Again, just because guys go out doesn’t mean that that’s a bad thing. You have to create space, and we wish those guys well that are departing, but that was already figured into the plan.”
Whittingham said he hopes to have the receiver situation sorted out in short order. He also said that with the recent portal defections, there is now room to add up to a half-dozen players at positions he believes to be deficient.
“We had anticipated certain moves happening and so that doesn’t alter what we’re going to do at all,” Whittingham said. “We just have the same needs and the same approach, and hopefully, we’re addressing it now, but hopefully we can be finalizing it in the next week or two.”