It’s time for another Utes spotlight, and one of the deepest positions for the Utes is this week’s focus. The Utah wide receiving corp was a large portion of Utah’s success last year. Talent and athleticism at the position will give, whomever this year’s quarterback is, some great offensive targets. Additionally, not knowing exactly what the formula implemented by new offensive coordinator Brian Johnson will be, Utah is in a great position to run the spread or pro, or any combination of.
The core of this year’s group is going to rely on two very familiar names from last year, and a new name to the team whom I believe will be a great threat. I’m talking of course about DeVonte Christopher, Dres Anderson, and newly eligible Baylor transfer, Josh Gordon. On whole, the group is nothing if not tall and athletic, with Christopher and Anderson coming in at 6’1″ each and Gordon at 6’4, all of whom have starting experience and decent speed to make up for some potential Wynn over throws, Hays soggy noodle arm under throws, or the inconsistency of a freshman.
Dres Anderson, or “Drizzy Drezz” as he goes by on Twitter, returns to the Utes for his sophomore year and with high expectations. After posting 355 receiving yards and 3 touchdowns, and a season best performance of 81 yards and a receiving touchdown against BYU, Dres proved as a freshman he is ready for a bigger and more prominent role coming into this year. Dres has definitely impressed so far this spring. In this weekend’s scrimmage, Anderson showed great burst and speed, and an ability to get open against the talented Utah secondary. Anderson pulled down 7 balls, for 96 yards and a touchdown in Saturday’s scrimmage. Obviously early, but indications are he and Wynn have developed some great chemistry, and with Anderson’s ability to get open, may lead to some quality production this season.
Next up is last year’s season receiving leader, DeVonte Christopher. In true Whittingham fashion, Christopher initially came into the program as a highly recruited quarterback recruit. The 2011 campaign resulted in 663 receiving yards, 5 receiving touchdowns, and 42 receptions. Christopher was nearly doubling the next closest production of Dres Anderson on the season. Capping off the season last year against Georgia Tech in the Sun Bowl, Christopher lead Utah once again with four catches for 74 yards and a touchdown. While less productive than Anderson, Christopher still put up decent numbers against BYU with three catches for 58 yards, proving that Christopher is no slouch in the spotlight. If there was a cornerstone in the receiving corp last year, Christopher was it. With consistent quarterback play, Christopher could be poised for a great senior season. He proved in the USC game (with 11 receptions, 136 yards, and a touchdown) that he is perfectly capable of dominating games against even the most formidable defenses. The numbers definitely show flashes of greatness, and an ability to perform. Should Wynn stay healthy, and Christopher maintain his ability to make big plays to catch the ball regularly, I expect close to a thousand yards and double-digit touchdowns this year.
To me, the most exciting prospect is junior Josh Gordon, who, from a purely skills and athleticism standpoint, has the makings of what could be an NFL wideout. Gordon transferred to Utah last year, however, was required to sit out due to NCAA rules. Gordon still has the longest touchdown reception in Baylor history when RG3 hit him for 94 yards.
Gordon ran a 4.42 40 coming into Baylor as a freshman, and with a couple of years and college training under his belt, you’ve got to figure he’s only gotten stronger and faster. In 2010, Gordon put up 714 receiving yards, with 7 receiving touchdowns at Baylor. Obviously, Jordan Wynn is no RG3, but talent is talent, and it’s something Gordon is not lacking. The 6’4″ man-child, has looked good in what we’ve seen from him, and one can only assume he’s itching to get back on the field after sitting last season, but the lack of spring practice and ability to build report with any of the Utah quarterbacks might make it tough to contribute right away.
Outside of Dres Anderson and DeVonte Christopher, it’s hard to know exactly what the role of the remaining wide receivers will be.
Needless to say, the Utes will never be without a receiving target this year. In addition to the three aforementioned receivers, Utah brings back seniors Reggie Dunn and Luke Matthews. Dunn had one of the best plays of the year last year when he broke loose for the 50 yard end around run against USC, has been more than serviceable in his tenure at Utah. He’s a player that brings a lot of ability and experience to the group this year.
Another potential big name target for the Utes may very well be Quinton Pedroza, who came to Utah out of Chino, California. Quinton has had a great spring camp thus far, and at times looked like he’s almost going to demand a starting job through his play. He’s a big fast receiver at 6’3″, 205 pounds, and running a 4.4 40, but it hasn’t just been the physique that’s impressed. Pedroza has the tenacity and willingness to lay himself out for anything that comes his way.
The wide receivers have definitely been a clutch group for the last two years, oftentimes having to compensate for shoddy and inconsistent quarterback play, however, with a little consistency, and good play-calling, they’re a group that could be looking to put up some decent numbers.
As always, let me know what you think Utes fans! How do you think the wide receivers are going to perform this year? Leave a comment or let me know on Twitter @AI_Steve and we’ll look forward to next week’s spotlight on the O Line.