2020 Utes Breakout Candidates: Devaughn Vele
The University of Utah has very few big questions on offense going into the 2020 season. Yes, a starting quarterback and running back must be named—but solid options are in place—the offense returns four starters on the offensive line, their starting tight ends, and all of their most productive receivers, minus Demari Simpkins. In fact, in a refreshing change of pace, the receiver group appears to have very solid talent and depth at all three positions.
Samson Nacua, Bryan Thompson, Jaylen Dixon, and Solomon Enis all return after being important contributors last season, and Britain Covey returns to the team at full strength after redshirting last season. Along with that core group, Tyrone Young-Smith has been granted an extra year of eligibility after struggling with injuries throughout his career. However, even with so many known quantities at receiver, there is still one guy among the group who could be on the verge of bursting onto the scene this year, redshirt freshman Devaughn Vele.
Devaughn Vele | 6-foot-4, 207 pounds
Throughout fall camp in 2019, there was buzz that Vele was making waves and competing for playing time right off the bat, even though he was a true freshman walk-on. Unfortunately, Vele didn’t get much of a chance to show what he could do, due to an injury he suffered partway through camp. Once he was recovered, Vele played in four games and preserved his redshirt, but didn’t record any stats.
Unfortunately, there’s just not a lot of film on Vele since he was a high school senior back in 2015-16. However, digging into his highlights shows a receiver with great size, length, and reach. At that point in his career, Vele didn’t necessarily have great top-end speed or burst off the line, but the aforementioned traits, along with impressive leaping ability, made him a downfield threat nonetheless. Vele showed that he can use his strength and long arms to create separation, and there are plenty of highlights that show him simply out-jumping a defender to go and get the ball.
Somehow he slipped through the cracks and left immediately for his LDS mission and upon returning, he called Utah to ask when walk-on tryouts were. Their response? Just show up and you’ll be on the team—to them it was a welcome surprise.
Since joining the Utes, he’s earned constant praise. Some call him “Baby Megatron” due to his large catch radius. His injury in 2019 fall camp was a big blow and has left many wondering what could have been with Huntley having him as a target.
As mentioned above, the Utes have plenty of returning talent and experience at receiver. With that experience, along with Vele, expect the Utes to have a solid two-deep at all three receiver positions, and possibly even go three-deep at one or two of those positions.