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Matt Piper and Kyle Goon
Matt Piper and Kyle Goon cover University of Utah sports teams for The Salt Lake Tribune. Matt Piper is on twitter at @matthew_piper, Kyle Goon is on twitter at @kylegoon

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Utah players on the move, football roster evolving

Utah's football roster continues to shuffle in the offseason as backup linebackers V.J. Fehoko and LT Filiaga and defensive back Joseph Smith are all transferring while several new players should be on campus in the coming weeks.

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Fehoko, a junior who played in 11 games last year and finished with 20 tackles, is headed to Texas Tech. It's unknown where Filiaga and Smith are headed.

Filiaga, a sophomore, played in nine games and finished with three tackles and Smith, a junior, played in two games and had six tackles.

The good news for the Utes is even with their departures, Utah's coaches feel positive enough about the linebackers that Brian Blechen will still move from linebacker to safety for the 2014 season.

Blechen was expected to play at linebacker in 2013 before he was sidelined for the season while recovering from knee surgery.

Blechen was an honorable mention All-Pac-12 player in 2012, making eight starts at strong safety.

"The way our linebackers developed last year, it gives us the luxury of moving Brian," Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said.

The Utes also expect to have Tevin Carter, a 6-foot-2 safety out of Southwest College in Los Angeles, on campus in the next few weeks, Whittingham said.

Carter signed with the Utes in the 2013 class but didn't enroll due to some academic issues.

If all goes well the Utes will add to their running back stable too with Devontae Booker enrolling. The 5-foot-11, 205-pound Booker signed with Utah last year but didn't enroll due to academic issues, which seem to be an ongoing issue for him.

Booker signed with Washington State out of high school in 2009 but had his scholarship revoked after he was late to take his entrance exam. A scholarship offer from Fresno State was pulled next after it was learned his high school math course didn't meet the academic requirements for the school.

Booker attended American River College in Sacramento where he rushed for 1,472 yards and 15 touchdowns in 2012.

He signed with the Utes but couldn't enroll due to academic problems. In December it became public that Booker and an ARC employee tried to forge his transcript to Utah.

Utah officials said they were unaware of the forged transcript.

Apparently the Utes are willing to give the running back another chance with Whittingham saying the Utes are "evaluating" the situation.

Booker is a versatile back much like returner Bubba Poole, who finished with 149 carries for 607 yards and tow touchdowns last year.

Freshman Jackson Barton, a 6-foot-6, 275-pound offensive lineman from Brighton H.S., has enrolled along with Allan Havili, a 6-foot-4, 270-pound defensive tackle out of Tooele H.S.

Out of all the players coming in, Whittingham seemed the most enthusiastic about 5-10, 188-pound receiver Kaelin Clay, a transfer from Mt. San Antonio C.C., who signed his letter of intent on Dec. 18.

"He is an explosive player with a lot of speed and quickness," Whittingham said. "He is someone who is dangerous in the return game too so he is a big plus for us."

Monday was the first day Whittingham has been available to media members since the announcement that Dave Christensen is joining Utah's staff as offensive coordinator. Christensen will be introduced during a press conference on Tuesday.

Whittingham declined to discuss specifics of Christensen's hiring on Monday, preferring to do so on Tuesday, but did say the Utes have to improve throughout the offense.

"We have to get better," Whittingham said. "We're going to stick with the spread philosophy, but we have to get better. Our biggest demise last year were turnovers."

The Utes expect to know about mid February whether quarterback Travis Wilson will be able to play or not. Wilson was sidelined for the final three games after medical exams following a concussion revealed a pre-existing intracranial condition which may prevent him from playing the sport again.

"There isn't anything new, we are still waiting," Whittingham said.

- Lya Wodraska



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