UCLA tight end Joseph Fauria, a 6-foot-7, 255-pound senior, is a problematic matchup for most teams with his physical presence.
However, the Utah Utes hope they have an answer for him with defensive end/linebacker Trevor Reilly.
The 6-foot-5 Reilly, who covered his share of tight ends last year, said he is up for the challenge of taking on Fauria, who has 16 catches for 200 yards and five touchdowns.
“He is big, but I think I can cover him,” he said. “He can run and catch and does a good job. I just need to work on finishing tackles. I missed a few tackles last week, and you just have to make sure you finish the play.”
Reilly played tight end in high school, an experience that helps him as a defender.
“You have to have the ability to contort your body and run weird routes,” he said. “He does a good job of that.”
Reilly, a former walk-on, has grown into one of Utah’s best defenders, prompting Utah coach Kyle Whittingham to voice confidence in Reilly’s ability to cover Fauria.
“He has come a long ways since he came in as a freshman and was a bean pole,” he said. “He has made a lot of progress and is playing bigger. He has a strong suit — a knack — for making plays, and you can’t coach that.”
Whittingham continued to emphasize the need to get freshman quarterback Travis Wilson into the game for the Utes on Saturday, noting Wilson has done a nice job practicing with the starters.
“We fed him a little bit here and there the first five weeks of the season and we will continue to get him more exposure with the ones, and you are going to see him play this Saturday for sure, without a doubt,” he said.
Whittingham took the blame for not getting Wilson into the USC game earlier. He added that he doesn’t want senior Jon Hays to feel like he has to look over his shoulder if he makes a mistake, but also noted that a good part of sports is the idea of “what have you done for me lately.”
Right now, it sounds like Wilson has done enough to earn some substantial playing time. When he goes in will be determined on the “flow of the game,” Whittingham said.
“Like I said, every week it is a competition, and he has been doing a nice job,” he said. “Right now he is taking a lot of reps with the ones.”
The Utes are taking advantage of fall break and practicing in the morning, which the coaches believe should help them adjust to Saturday’s 1 p.m. kickoff time.
Whittingham said he is considering moving Utah’s practices to the morning in the future, provided the Utes can work around their class schedule. Schools such as UCLA and Arizona State already practice in the morning.
“It’s something we are looking at, but the whole thing hinges on academics and schedules for classes,” he said.
Part of the remodeling that is taking place at Utah’s football facility includes the installation of lights. The Utes could hold night practices or could push practice to later in the evening. The Utes normally practice from about 3:30 to 5:30 p.m.
Utah at UCLA
P Saturday, 1 p.m.
TV • Ch. 13