With two weeks left in fall camp, true freshman Barrinton Collins is poised to make a difference in the Wildcats’ run attack.
“He gets better every scrimmage,” said Head Coach Ron McBride. “He’s a very exciting player. He can break it at any time.”
The 5-foot-9-inch, 185-pound running back from California is in a four-way competition — led by likely starter Josh Booker — for reps at running back.
“It took me a while to get into the rotation and to get the feel of college football, but I feel like now that I’ve got it down, I can really be a big weapon for this offense,” Collins said.
Collins said he’s a diverse back who can hit the seams in opponents’ defenses and catch balls out of the backfield. He showed some of his diversity in a recent scrimmage, carrying the ball eight times for 62 yards and receiving it twice for another 37 yards. One of those catches was a 25-yard touchdown reception from starting quarterback Mike Hoke.
“I’m not the biggest back, but I’m small, so I can fit through them holes,” Collins said. “I feel like I can help this team win a national championship.”
Booker rushed for 61 yards on 12 carries in the same scrimmage and saw significant action last fall. Despite Booker’s success and experience, McBride said Collins could see action this fall.
“Would I have any reservations about playing him? Absolutely not,” McBride said. “He’s legitimate. We’ll just have to see how everything pans out.”
Blocking for Collins this fall will be another true freshman, Tevia Tolutau from Timpview High School in Provo. The 6-foot-2-inch, 255-pound fullback was recruited to play defensive line, but was switched to the offense to utilize the blocking skills he developed on the offensive line in high school.
“He’s been a big surprise, because we didn’t know quite what we were getting with him,” McBride said. “We knew we were getting a good player . . . but we didn’t know that he was going to be as good as he is.”
Tolutau — who is coming off a season-ending injury at Timpview — has already been opening holes for the running game, McBride said.
“I feel like I can block somewhat decently,” Tolutau said.
Another freshman expected to make an impact is red-shirt receiver Xavian Johnson. The 6-foot, 180-pound receiver said speed is his biggest asset.
“He’ll be our deep threat, speed threat,” McBride said. “He’s definitely the starter at the ‘X’ position. He’s an exciting player, a home-run type guy.”
Johnson could help ease the loss of star receiver Joe Collins, who had 61 receptions and more than 1,000 yards receiving in 2010, and Mike Phillips, who had 793 yards receiving.
“I’m excited. I can’t wait,” Johnson said. “It’s my turn to shine. I feel like the person in front of me can’t guard me.”
Johnson and fellow freshman receiver Eric Shufford are both in the mix to return punts and kicks.
“(Shufford’s) a hell of a prospect,” McBride said. “He’s a maneuverability guy. In the open field, he’s hard to deal with — a shake-and-bake guy. He’s definitely going to play.”