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Utah football: Utah's Dunn running into the record books

Published November 7, 2012 1:41 pm

College football • Bypassed for starting role as receiver, senior Dunn excels on kickoff returns.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Utah kick returner Reggie Dunn has lightning bolts cut down the side of his mohawk. On his feet? Apparently the guy has some wings.

Dunn, a receiver who was all but buried on Utah's depth chart earlier in the year, has come alive to produce some of the most electric moments in the college football season.

His three 100-yard kickoff returns in the last two games mark the first time a player has had so many in a season.

Combined with his 100-yard return against Iowa State in 2010, Dunn now has four to his name, surpassing anyone else.

Georgia's Brandon Boykin (2008-11) and Oklahoma State's Barry Sanders (1986-88) both had three in their careers.

Unfortunately for Dunn, the NCAA doesn't keep separate categories for 100-yard returns since they are so rare. But Dunn is making them a common occurrence for the Utes.

He might not be remembered in the record books, but he will be at Utah, where he is electrifying the crowd and his teammates.

"Those returns are boosting the team because they're big-impact plays," quarterback Travis Wilson said. "When he got through that first line [against Washington State], I jumped off the bench. I was so excited for him to break that record."

Dunn, who runs a 4.32 in the 40, says there is no magic to his returns — he has just gotten a feel for kickoffs and has learned to use his teammates.

For instance, he was patient enough to let Charles Henderson give him a sliver of room on the second-half kickoff against Washington State.

"I put my hand on his back and just let him lead me through there, and it was all open field from there," he said.

That the Cougars even kicked to Dunn was a surprise to most, considering the way he blistered Cal for two touchdowns the previous week.

Now, Dunn has so much confidence he is almost calling his shots like a slugger pointing to a certain area of the outfield.

"I could do it every week if they keep kicking it to me," he said.

He shouldn't get too hopeful. Washington opponents are averaging 22.3 yards a return but Washington coach Steve Sarkisian is well aware of the danger Dunn possesses on the field.

Sarkisian watched Dunn mature as a football player when he was an assistant at USC and Dunn would participate in some of the school's camps while he was starring for Verbum Dei High, Calif.

Sarkisian recruited Dunn when he became the head coach at Washington, but Dunn, who went to Compton College out of high school, chose the Utes.

Dunn has grown from being a "little squirt" in the eyes of Sarkisian to someone to fear.

"It's in his nature, he's always been fast," Sarkisian said. "He has big-play capabilities and we're aware of it. He has been on a roll the last couple of games, but he is good not only on special teams but as a receiver, too."

Dunn's kickoffs are gaining him more attention, but most importantly for the senior, they might give him a shot at redeeming himself.

Pegged to be a starter in the preseason, Dunn was passed up by other receivers in fall camp, then had some dropped passes against Utah State and BYU.

After watching what he has done on special teams, Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said it's time to get Dunn more reps in other areas.

"We need to get the ball in his hands on the offense," Whittingham said.

While the idea of a bigger role is enticing, for now Dunn is living up his recent success.

"Right now I'm trying to make the best of my time here," he said. "I don't have a lot of time left, it's almost over, so I'm just enjoying being with my teammates."

The unassuming guy does hope he can have one other effect on his teammates.

He wishes others will follow his trend of a wild haircut, believing the team should have "rally 'hawks," like the rally mustaches the Utes sported a year ago.

The idea has a good chance of catching on. As for catching Dunn, there is almost no chance of that happening. —

Reggie Dunn file

Ht, Wt • 5-10, 172, Sr.

From • Compton, Calif.

Noteworthy • First player in NCAA history with four 100-yard kickoff returns in his career. … Also has 12 catches for 74 yards and 12 carries for 54 yards. … Ranked sixth in the Pac-12 with a 23.6 kick return average in 2011. … Averaged 29.6 yards on his returns in 2010. … Against Iowa State in 2010, he became the first Ute to return a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown in 25 years. —

NCAA leaders

Utah's Reggie Dunn doesn't have the minimum amount of kick returns (1.2 per game) to qualify for the NCAA category, but if he did he'd be leading the nation since he is averaging 55.4 yards on his seven attempts. Here is a look at the national leaders:

Player School Avg

1. Dri Archer Kent State 42.08

2. Quincy McDuffie UCF 38.75

3. Tyler Lockett Kansas State 34.5

4. Trey Watts Tulsa 34.09

5. Tavon Austin West Virginia 32.88