Utah is coming off a nine-win campaign in 2014, the program's first true breakthrough as a member of the Pac-12 conference. Kyle Whittingham's challenge for next season is one focused on the maintenance of this success, and Saturday's spring game in Salt Lake City will provide an early glimpse at the Utes' offseason progress.
The development of the receiving corps surrounding senior quarterback Travis Wilson should generate plenty of attention. Kaelin Clay and Dres Anderson, that unit's top two guns, are gone, so it's no surprise that Whittingham identified receiver as the Utah position needing the most development this offseason.
Keep in mind that more receiving talent is on its way. Prized junior college transfer Deniko Carter will join Utah's roster in the fall, so he won't participate in the spring game. As a result, this weekend should offer added chances to evaluate the progress of youngsters such as Tyrone Smith, who has packed on 20 pounds of muscle in about a year on campus. The Salt Lake Tribune featured his rise from Fresno's Edison High School to Division I football, which began with a supportive teacher in the classroom.
Another potential new Utah receiving target is a former professional baseball player. Six-foot-5, 260-pound Wallace Gonzalez played in the Houston Astros' system, but he's now competing for playing time and getting press at a position group that lost Westlee Tonga, its most statistically productive member. Gonzalez has a receiving pedigree, as he split out wide in high school. He's 50 pounds larger now, though, so it's easy to see why the Utes are exciting about his future at tight end.
Though there are legitimate questions surrounding Utah's inexperience at receiver, there's no question regarding the stability that Devontae Booker brings to the backfield. And if this account of some intense work on the JUGS machine means anything, it sounds as if the senior running back is also ready to help Wilson through the air.
Another nugget to notice Saturday: One of Utah's key big bodies has slimmed down. Defensive lineman Lowell Lotulelei has dropped about 20 pounds this offseason. He told the Tribune that he's feeling effective at his new weight.