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Utah football: Key aims to make impact as receiver
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2009, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

After arriving to the Utes late in 2008, junior college transfer Aiona Key made the biggest impact on special teams when he blocked two kicks and a field goal.

This season the 6-foot-4, 195-pound senior hopes his biggest contributions will come at receiver.

Key, who had just one catch for 19 yards last season, is slotted as a starting receiver along with David Reed , Jereme Brooks and Luke Matthews .

Being with the team through spring and fall camp has helped Key learn the ins and outs of the offense, something he struggled with doing in 2008 when he arrived two games into the season.

"I feel a lot more comfortable now," he said. "It's all about making the right decisions, routes and reads."

With a 4.5 in the 40 and a 34.5-inch vertical jump, Key is one of the better all-around athletes on the team and his presence made Utah's special teams a strong suit in 2008.

He returned the punt he blocked against Wyoming for a touchdown.

"Special teams is fun because you get a chance to mix it up with the other people and you get to let loose," Key said.

He'll still get some chances on special teams this season, but Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said he wants him to focus on receiving.

"He'll still show up on punt blocking and he'll have his role, but we don't want to spread him too thin," he said.

Misi carted off practice field

Senior Koa Misi , Utah's all-MWC preseason defensive lineman, went down in practice Wednesday afternoon and was carted off the field.

Whittingham said he doesn't know how serious the injury is and hoped it was only a back spasm.

Whittingham said Misi has been hampered with tightness in his lower back previously.

"I'm really concerned," he said. "It just knotted up on him."

Misi was working in a light contact drill with offensive lineman Zane Beadles when the injury occurred.

Misi is Utah's most experienced lineman, having started the last 11 games of the 2007 season and all 13 games in the 2008 season.

Lineup notes

Walter Watts had the inside track on the starting role at right guard, but now will split duties with redshirt freshman Tevita Stevens , unless things change before the opener, Whittingham said. ... Lamar Chapman and Justin Jones have earned the third and fourth corner duties. ... Whittingham's son, Tyler , has joined the Utes as a sophomore safety walk-on, taking the place of Corbin Louks among the 105 players allowed in camp.

Watch lists

Utah seniors Beadles, Misi and Stevenson Sylvester have been named to the watch list for the Rotary Lombardi Award, which goes to the best college football lineman. Misi is also on the watch list for the Bronko Nagurski award, which goes to the nation's best defensive player, while Beadles was previously named to the Outland Trophy watch list, an award that goes to the best interior lineman.

lwodraska@sltrib.com" Target="_BLANK">lwodraska@sltrib.com

Camp corner

What we learned » The Utes didn't have one of their best practices Wednesday, and several starters sat out with minor injuries and soreness. Coach Kyle Whittingham attributed it all to the "grind of two-a-days taking its toll."

Who was hot » Whittingham tabbed receiver DeVonte Christopher as the most improved player in camp and said he is now pushing the starters. "He has steadily progressed because of his worth ethic and attitude," Whittingham said.

Who was sidelined » Running backs Eddie Wide and Sausan Shakerin along with receivers John Peel and Shaky Smithson were hampered by minor injuries.

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