Casteel-ing the spot light

By By Tony Pizza and By Tony Pizza

By Tony Pizza

If the U football team had control of Webster’s dictionary, it would give some serious thought to putting Brent Casteel’s picture next to the word “dynamic.” Not only is the sophomore wide receiver’s role on the offense-the one that changes from running back to wide receiver-a dynamic one, but the burst of positive energy Casteel provides for the offense makes him the epitome of the word.

“He’s a dynamic guy,” offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig said. “He’s an excellent route runner, and a good pass receiver, but (he) also has some running back attributes about him, so we’re trying to utilize him in both roles.”

The San Francisco native’s success on both facets of the offense might have something to do with No. 5’s freakishly strong legs. Casteel can squat 500 pounds, which is more than two-and-a-half times his body weight. That, combined with the fact that Casteel has been training for the way he has been utilized since high school, has a lot to do with Casteel’s emergence as one of the most potent Ute players.

“In high school, I played all running back, but I was versatile. I was still running in and catching the ball,” Casteel said. “At the college level, (coaches) utilize you in different spots; you just have to go out there and make it happen.”

A player like Casteel allows the Utes’ offense to be much more versatile than it may otherwise be without him. Oftentimes, Casteel will line up in the backfield, either to directly take a Brett Ratliff handoff or to become a threat on the option portion of the Ute attack- something that you can find on a football team every day.

“He’s a wide receiver who can come into the backfield and become a running back,” coach Ludwig said. “Not every wide receiver can do that, so he’s a special guy.”

Possibly the only problem with having a guy like Casteel on your team is that a lot of people are going to notice when he isn’t touching the ball, including Casteel himself. After getting 10 touches and a touchdown to go with his 105 all-purpose yards on offense during the Utes’ first game against UCLA, Casteel saw a noticeable drop in his involvement on offense.

Over the next four games, Casteel averaged a little more than five touches and 63 yards per game, something Casteel was obviously concerned with.

“Yeah, first few games of the season coaches knew that I was a little frustrated because I wasn’t touching the ball,” Casteel said. “TCU was a big game. They fed me the rock in the TCU game. Coach’s decision-they’re going to find the go-to-guy.”

Coaches did get Casteel the ball more against TCU. At the end of the night, the sophomore saw the ball come his way nine times-five on the ground, and four times in the air-for a combined 75 yards and two touchdowns, which is closer to the number of times both Casteel and the coaches would like to see their gifted wideout get the ball. Casteel did, however, hint at why he wasn’t getting the ball as much in the previous four games.

“We have a lot of go-to guys,” Casteel said. “I’m just another guy to make a lot of plays out there, but we have a lot playmakers on the offensive side.”

Nevertheless, both coaches and players alike know that getting the ball to a player of Casteel’s caliber can only equal good things. Even though Casteel lines up as a receiver, coach Ludwig likes using Casteel in the backfield, because he knows No. 5 is going to get the chance to do something special with the football.

“We want to get him more touches any way we can. Motioning him into the backfield and handing him the ball, that’s an easy way to get him a touch,” Ludwig said. “When you call a pass route, one of four or five guys can catch the ball?but when you call a run play, you know who’s going to get it.”

Just because Casteel can run the ball doesn’t mean the Utes want to take Casteel out of the passing game. With Casteel’s speed, he remains one of the Utes’ best deep threats, something he demonstrated on his 49-yard touchdown catch against TCU. Not only did Casteel burn the safety by at least four yards, but he also had the presence of mind to stick with the defected pass all the way for the score.

With a slew of important MWC games on the horizon, it only seems logical that a versatile threat like Casteel would see the ball more often. Then the Utes wouldn’t have to worry about putting Casteel’s picture next to the word “dynamic” and they could focus on getting it next to the word “touchdown.”

Christopher Peddecord

Wide receiver Brent Casteel tries to escape the clasping arms of a TCU defender on Oct. 5 at Rice-Eccles Stadium.