The Utah Utes are still trying to find their footing since joining the Pac-12 but head coach Kyle Whittingham has reason to be optimistic heading into 2014. His offense, though breaking in their third offensive coordinator in three years, is stacked with returning talent.
The offensive line is deeper than it has been in years, quarterback Travis Wilson is thankfully on his way back to being healthy, and wide receiver Dres Anderson will be one of the premier pass-catchers in the conference next fall. But the best reason for optimism in Salt Lake City might be the incredible depth the team has at running back heading into 2014.
While the team loses Kelvin York, they return 2013 leading rusher James “Bubba” Poole who racked up 607 yards on 149 carries last season, finding paydirt twice. Poole is the starting running back for now, but Whittingham has expressed interest in using a committee-approach out of the backfield thanks to the talent that has emerged this spring.
Most notably, Devontae Booker appears ready for a breakout campaign in 2014. He originally signed with the Utes in 2013 but did not play last season as he worked to qualify academically. He has great size at 5-foot-11 and 200 pounds to run over defenders and move the pile to go along with the speed and athleticism to run away from defenders.
During the spring game, Booker had an outstanding performance, rushing for 109 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries. The one knock on Booker’s spring was his lack of condition which Whittingham said they would continue to work on to make him into a standout Pac-12 running back.
But if he’s added to the mix of Poole and Troy McCormick to form a nice trio of backs, the conditioning issue should not be a problem. Having a player like Booker burst onto the scene only makes the Utes’ offense stronger as they have another weapon to plug in depending on the situation.
Having multiple running backs that can contribute in 2014 will make the Utah offense dangerous in 2014 as the passing game gets on its feet through the early going. With so much depth in the backfield, can Utah make some waves in the Pac-12 this fall?