SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Sports) – There have been some very good Utah secondaries in recent years.
The 2008 group produced five NFL Draft picks in Sean Smith, Brice McCain, Robert Johnson, R.J. Stanford and Brandon Burton.
The 2016 Utes secondary had four players that are currently on NFL rosters in Marcus Williams, Brian Allen, Reggie Porter and Dominique Hatfield.
But this year’s secondary, led by Julian Blackmon, Jaylon Johnson, Corrion Ballard and Marquise Blair. may be better than them all. That is a far cry from last year’s preseason, when the secondary was considered to be a big question mark.
“We like to hear our names being respected and stuff like that,” Johnson said. “It’s also motivation to keep pushing, keep being the best and keep proving ourselves.”
“Showing everyone that we can do this,” said Blackmon. “We had that little chip in our shoulder last year because people didn’t think we could because we were young. So we just wanted to prove people wrong.”
“They’ve got size, speed, quickness, the ability to change direction, ball skills,” said head coach Kyle Whittingham. “Just what you look for in secondary guys, these guys have.”
They also have depth with the likes of Javelin Guidry, Philip Afia, Josh Nurse and Vonte Davis ready to step in if called upon. However, the coaches aren’t letting them get too full of themselves just yet.
“Well, this group hasn’t done anything yet,” said defensive coordinator Morgan Scalley. “That’s the difference. I like the talent level that’s here. I love their mentality, but we haven’t played a game. No one has made a play yet.”
Playing in the pass-happy Pac-12, these guys are going to get tested week in and week out.
“Most definitely,” said Blackmon, who led the team with four interceptions last year, including two in the Heart of Dallas Bowl. “That’s a reason a lot of us come here to Utah because you have teams that are going to throw, a lot of air raid teams.”
“It’s definitely to have good competition, to have good receivers and quarterbacks,” said Johnson. “We can show our abilities against good people.”
Going against a secondary like this in practice everyday only makes quarterback Tyler Huntley better.
“Those DB’s, they give us a challenge everyday,” Huntley said. “We’ve got to come out on our A-game everyday, or the defense is going to get us. I guess that’s what’s making us so much better.”