Utah lost four starters to graduation at corner, with Brian Allen, Dominique Hatfield, Reggie Porter and Justin Thomas running out of eligibility. Utah has little in the way of experience returning; Utah returns one start, 26 tackles, 2 passes defended and a forced fumble.
Utah has no returning players with multiple starts at cornerback or nickel back.
Julian Blackmon played in nine games last season, mostly on special teams. He recorded two tackles and returned two kickoffs for 26 yards.
Tyrone Smith transitioned from receiver to corner late last season, and like former Utah WR-CB conversions Sean Smith and Brian Allen, Smith is tall; at 6-foot-4 he is one of the taller corners in the country. Smith played corner against Colorado and Indiana, recording three tackles. He has the athleticism to play the position, but to say he is raw in technique would be something of an understatement.
Terrell Burgess is a terrific athlete who will compete for starting spots at nickel and in the return game. He played both receiver and corner last season, catching one pass for 7 yards on offense, made one tackle and one pass defended on defense, and returned a pair of kickoffs for 27 yards. At 6-feet, Burgess would be taller than the nickel corners Utah has traditionally used, but he has the athleticism to cover slot receivers.
Boobie Hobbs has the most experience at nickel, backing up Justin Thomas each of the past three seasons with one start. He needs to improve his cover skills, but he has the short-area quickness to be a solid nickel. He needs to improve his ball skills. Despite his experience, Hobbs is starting spring backing up Burgess.
Nygel King redshirted in 2016 and is a long shot to earn playing time at corner this season. King is a slender athlete with raw athleticism but little technique.
Casey Hughes will not participate in the spring, and would likely have split time between corner and safety had been able to participate.
Tre’Von Strong transferred from Montana State and will begin his career at Utah as a walk-on. Strong will redshirt this season due to the transfer. At 6-foot-1, Strong fits the profile of Utah cornerbacks. He would also be Utah’s most experienced corner, having started 14 games in his two seasons in Bozeman. Though he will not play this season, he can help coach up the younger players.
Utah needs help at the corner position. It is not likely that starting spots will be earned in the spring, and Utah will get a couple of corners in the fall that will compete for starting jobs. This is the most inexperienced group the Utes have, not exactly ideal with all that Utah asks their corners to do.