Can a couple of transfers give Utah’s WR group some juice?

Seniors Mycah Pittman and Emery Simmons bring a ton of experience to the position for the Utes, but will be counted upon to make the team’s passing attack more dynamic in 2023.

(Ben McKeown | AP file photo) Florida State's Mycah Pittman is all smiles after a touchdown against North Carolina last season. The senior transfer has drawn rave reviews in the early days of Utah's fall camp as both a slot receiver and punt returner.

Utah football coach Kyle Whittingham made it clear that, with Cam Rising still working his way back from ACL surgery, the Utes’ biggest focus right now is getting settled at quarterback.

What’s the next-most-pressing issue, though?

“Outside of quarterback, it would be quarterback,” he said, tongue in cheek, following Monday’s opening day of fall camp.

Point taken.

There are other issues to be addressed, though, including one that offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig invoked toward the end of Utah’s spring camp.

Depth at wide receiver would be the No. 1 concern,” Ludwig said then. “I feel really good where we are with Devaughn Vele, Money Parks, [Mikey] Matthews has come in and done a really good job. … But that would be the one gray area.”

To his point, Vele is back for a fifth year after starting 12 games in 2022 and racking up 695 yards and five touchdowns; Parks, a junior out of Texas, appeared in all 14 games last season and totaled 26 catches for 414 yards, and two TDs; and Matthews, the true freshman and four-star recruit out of Mission Viejo High School in Irvine, Calif., turned plenty of heads with his spring performance. But beyond that …

It’s all up in the air.

Still, there are two new faces who will be counted upon not only to make an impact on the field, but to bring a depth of knowledge to the wide receivers room: senior transfers Mycah Pittman and Emery Simmons.

“The one thing I appreciate the younger guys understanding is, because we have that older room with me, Mycah and Emery, they always ask the right questions,” Vele said after Wednesday’s practice. “They always ask us questions, they’re not afraid to talk to us. … We’re all brothers in that room.”

It’s good to have guys who can impart some wisdom, but Pittman and Simmons will need to bring production.

There are particularly high expectations for — and a palpable buzz around — Pittman, the 6-foot, 214-pound former Oregon and Florida State product.

He began his collegiate career with the Ducks, appearing in 22 games (including 12 starts) across three seasons, and totaling 38 receptions for 547 yards and two touchdowns in Eugene. And last season with the Seminoles, he played 13 games, made seven starts, and had 32 catches for 330 yards and three TDs. He also ranked second in the ACC and 15th nationally in yards per punt return (9.4).

“Super-talented. I think he is going to be a tremendous asset for us in a lot of regards as far as what he brings,” said Utah wide receivers coach Alvis Whitted. “He brings a toughness to the game, and [a] skillset, his play strength. I mean, he is such a natural athlete. I’m really excited to work with him.”

Whittingham said that Pittman had a standout day on Monday, displaying soft hands as both a receiver and a punt returner.

He’s been getting work in the slot, and Utes fans will undoubtedly be thrilled to hear Vele say that, even though the physical dimensions don’t match at all, the shiftiness that Pittman boasts reminds him a lot of Britain Covey.

The guy who will be getting him the ball, meanwhile, said it’s breathtaking to see what he can do in the open field.

“For Mycah, his routes and [what he does] catching the ball underneath is world-class — I think he’s one of the better ones in the nation,” said Rising. “And when he gets the ball, he kind of turns into a running back.”

Pittman announced back in early March on his YouTube vlog that he’d undergone surgery on his hip for a torn labrum, and said it would likely keep him out four to six months. He apparently proved a quick healer, because Whittingham said Monday that the wideout “did everything today with no limitations,” though the coach conceded “we might be a little more cautious when it comes to putting the gear on.”

Simmons, meanwhile, comes in with perhaps less fanfare but still the potential to be a contributor.

The 6-1, 182-pounder was at North Carolina from 2019-21, where he played in 30 games (with 14 starts) and recorded 30 receptions for 516 yards and three touchdowns. Last season at Indiana, he appeared in 12 games with six starts, totaling 37 catches, 408 yards, and one touchdown.

He’s regarded as a vertical threat with a knack for high-pointing the ball.

“Emery, he’s kind of a jack-of-all-trades — can win over the top and do everything, just get open on his route,” said Rising.

(Doug McSchooler | AP file photo) Indiana wide receiver Emery Simmons, right, goes up for the ball against Illinois defensive back Terrell Jennings on Friday, Sept. 2, 2022. Simmons is now expected to bolster Utah's WR room this season.

Between Vele, Parks, Matthews, Pittman and Simmons, plus the impending return of injured but weaponized tight end Brant Kuithe, there is hope that the Utes can finally feature a consistently dynamic passing attack, thus lessening the need to be so reliant upon the run game.

Lest anyone get too far ahead of themselves, however, there remains work to be done by the new guys.

“Because we are a pro-style offense, they’re not used to the audibles and the checks and all that we have,” said Vele. “But they’re asking a lot of questions, asking the right questions, and I think they’re going in the right direction.”

That would be toward the end zone.