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Fotu's suspension leaves Utah defense short on experience

Published February 21, 2011 1:40 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Another run-in with the law might cost senior linebacker Nai Fotu his career with Utah's football team. Fotu, arrested Sunday on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol, won't participate in spring ball and has been "suspended from our football team until further notice," Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said in a statement released by the university. The 22-year-old was stopped by a Utah Highway Patrol Sunday about 2 a.m. on 1000 West and State Road 201 for driving the wrong way, said UHP Lt. Steve Winward. Fotu was booked into Salt Lake County jail on suspicion of DUI, open container in vehicle, not having a valid driver's license and speeding. Often in such cases, Whittingham often will say he will let the judicial system play out before deciding a player's future. However, the fact that he already has decided to suspend Fotu for spring ball might be due to Fotu's history. Fotu also had a warrant out of Provo City Justice Court for failure to appear on charges of giving false personal information to police, unlawful possession of alcohol or a controlled substance by a minor and public urination for an incident on March 20, 2009. Fotu's suspension leaves an already depleted Utah defense that much leaner. Fotu, who has played both defensive end and linebacker, was expected to be a key player in 2011 after missing the 2010 season with a knee injury suffered in spring practice of 2010. He played in all 13 games in 2009 and finished with 23 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks. Utah loses four starters from its 2010 team, including linebacker Chad Manis, while defensive lineman Sealver Siliga and corner Brandon Burton left a year early for the NFL. Starting linebackers Chaz Walker and Matt Martinez return, but outside of sophomore Boo Andersen, the rest of the linebacker corp., has very little experience. J.J. Williams, a junior last year who was expected to start, was hampered all year by a foot injury. Victor Spikes, a 6-foot, 205-pound sophomore, has shown potential and he'll have even more expectations placed on him now. Another player who could step in and help at linebacker is V.J. Fehoko, a freshman last year who left a good impression on coaches during bowl practices. The Utes start spring practice March 8.