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Utah football notes: Utes lose standout CB Porter for the season

Published August 13, 2014 1:47 pm

Listed as a co-starter, Porter injures knee during scrimmage.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

A team can't win a scrimmage against itself, but it can lose.

After a relatively injury-free first week, Kyle Whittingham announced Wednesday that sophomore Reginald Porter will miss the year with a knee injury sustained in Tuesday's scrimmage.

"We didn't think much of it when it happened," he said. "He didn't think much of it. Looked good from an initial exam, but upon further examination, he's done for the season."

Porter was most recently listed as a co-starter with senior Davion Orphey, and Whittingham said that he might have been Utah's best cornerback to this point in fall camp. He'll undergo surgery in a couple of weeks, he said.

"He was a guy we were counting on," Whittingham said.

Orphey and fellow starters Eric Rowe and Justin Thomas have also drawn rave reviews this fall, but at the very least Porter's loss puts a significant dent in Utah's secondary depth.

Safety Brian Allen (a receiver in spring) will now take reps at cornerback. So will sophomore wideout Dominique Hatfield, who will continue to practice on both sides of the ball.

But even though Hatfield isn't new to the position — "He was the defensive player of the league in high school," Whittingham said — there's a learning curve.

Shortly after dropping a Kendal Thompson would-be touchdown pass in the end zone, Hatfield pulled a black shirt over his red to guard senior 1,000-yard receiver Dres Anderson. The result: a pass interference penalty on Hatfield.

Freshman safety Andre Godfrey also had his left foot in a boot and was on crutches Wednesday. Asked about Godfrey, Whittingham said it's not the policy to comment on injuries that are not season-ending.

Sam's switch • Utah's latest depth chart lists six co-starters at defensive tackle, and sophomore Sam Tevi isn't one of them.

Check again next week. Not at defensive tackle, though.

Coaches switched the 6-foot-5, 295-pound Tevi to offensive tackle for Wednesday's practice. Whittingham said his ceiling on that side of the ball is "very high."

"I think that's probably his most natural spot," Whittingham said. It's not the first time he's been moved to the offense, but he asked coaches for one more shot on the defensive side. This time, it seems, the move is permanent.

Offensive line coach Jim Harding said Tevi will immediately push the guys he's already been working with, due to his natural ability.

"I just threw him in there, and between Coach [Dave] Christensen and myself, we would yell what his assignments were," he said. "But he is a natural knee-bender. He shows some good athleticism, which is what we're looking for at the tackle spot."

Where's Wallace? • (In keeping with the theme today ...)

Whittingham said that as soon as the 6-5, 270-pound Wallace Gonzalez arrived in Salt Lake City after three years in the Houston Astros minor league system, he got the idea that the former prep tight end standout had the tools to play defense. Wednesday, Gonzalez tried his hand as an edge pass rusher.

"He's a tremendous athlete," Whittingham said. "He's a big, strong, fast, athletic kid. Hasn't played football for three or four years, so we're getting a look at him."

Gonzalez said he's never played defense — at any level — but he's happy to do whatever he can do to help the team, even if it means memorizing two playbooks at the same time. Coaches simplified things for him on Wednesday, when he was able to bat down a Thompson pass, and he thinks his background on the offensive side of the ball gives him some knowledge of what he can do as a defensive end to be a problem for his former group.

And it's just an easier position to play after three years hitting curveballs, he said.

"Defensive end is a lot more just read and go. The tight end position is a lot more technique and stuff like that."

Quarterbacks rebound • The head coach didn't have anything nice to say about the quarterbacks during Tuesday's scrimmage.

Wednesday, he relented a little.

"These guys aren't afraid to work," Whittingham said. "It's not a question or a matter of not putting in the time or effort. We've just got to get better results. We've got to coach them better. It starts with coaching."

Travis Wilson said the group got back to finding easy throws and being accurate, and the execution was improved.

"Made a lot more completions. I think that's something we lacked in our scrimmage — our completion percentage was really low — so I think we got that corrected today and made a lot more bigger plays today, as well," he said.

Wilson acknowledged that he'd like to see the competition between he and Kendal Thompson for the No. 1 job come to a close, but when it does, and whomever is chosen, "That doesn't mean I'm going to let up."

***

Football, in the traditional sense • The Camp Kyle Olympics continue, and after some serious hacking at golf, baseball and punt catching, Utah's football players reaffirmed their athleticism in a post-practice penalty shootout.

Annoyingly talented kicker Andy Phillips started things off with a goal and an acrobatic celebration, and linebacker Jared Norris appeared to "win" when he slotted it past two graduate assistants and 1280 The Zone radio host Hans Olsen.

"Training camp is a grind," explained Whittingham. "You've got to have a little bit of a diversion now and then, or it just becomes ridiculously a grind."

Norris in action:

***

Highlights • Junior wideout Kenneth Scott made a fantastic grab on a 35-yard Travis Wilson pass down the right sideline, plucking it over senior strong safety Brian Blechen.

Standouts • We'll cheat and pick Scott, again. He's been held out of live work and media only get to observe the final 20 minutes of practice, so Wednesday's session served us a reminder that Scott's a force to be reckoned with at 100 percent. Wilson and Thompson both found Scott again and again in the observable time. "I'm glad he's back," said Wilson. "Definitely missed him last year. I take full advantage of when he's back, and I know if I throw up to him, he'll go up and get it."

Position spotlight • With Trevor Reilly gone to the league, Nate Orchard has inherited the right side defensive end spot traditionally reserved for a team's best pass rusher. So far, so good, said Whittingham. "When he's in a groove, he's nearly impossible for us to block off the edge. Hopefully it's the same for other teams."

Quote of the day • Gonzalez: "It felt a little weird being able to hit somebody and not getting a flag for it."

mpiper@sltrib.com

Twitter: @matthew_piper