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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 football notes — OL Parker Erickson nominated as Rhodes Scholar

Former New York Knick and Senator Bill Bradley is one. USC AD Pat Haden is one. Bill Clinton is one of the most famous ones.

There’s a long, arduous vetting process ahead, but political science major Parker Erickson hopes to be one of the next Rhodes Scholars, one of 32 students nationwide and 83 in the world selected to pursue their postgraduate education at Oxford.

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He’s just got to work around football practice.

"It’s been quite a bit to do," Erickson said, understating a schedule that occupies almost every waking moment.

Erickson was endorsed last week by the University of Utah to apply for arguably the most prestigious academic scholarship in the world. He’s produced eight letters of recommendation, formed relationships in Washington D.C., taking interviews, and he’s currently on his 24th revision of his 1000-word personal statement that will go a long way to determine if he’s got Rhodes Scholar stuff.

Consider that Erickson already has a 4.0 GPA despite attending his fourth school in five years and playing football, albeit mostly as a scout team player. After stops at Salt Lake Community College, Utah State and Snow College — oh yeah, he also went on an LDS Church Mission to Detroit — he’s finally found an academic and athletic home where he’s happy.

Adding to his mental well-being: He no longer commutes to school from Lehi, which required him to wake up every day at 4:30 a.m. for training, school and practice. Not exactly ideal circumstances for an aspiring brainiac.

"Now I live 10 minutes away, so I have a lot more time," he said. "I’m really happy about it."

Erickson has more scrutiny upcoming when he’s grouped against candidates from a multi-state district in October, then by the end of the year, he’ll know if he’s one of the 36. Coincidentally, that’s about the time he’ll be earning his bachelor’s degree.

Erickson sees himself working to bridge gaps between the private and public sectors to "create social change" and better sculpt public policy (he goes to a lot more detail in his statement, he said). Juggling all of his commitments can be tricky, but he’s keeping the end goal in mind.

"The price is right — let’s get real: It’s free," he said. "But the more I’ve done my own research into Rhodes Scholarship and the programs I want to do, it would really equip me best to make the social change I want to see both in public policy and the business sector."

The Rhodes Trust annually awards 83 scholarships to students around the world who demonstrate scholarly achievement and a commitment to public service.

***

Hatfield’s new role • Sophomore Dominique Hatfield was a wide receiver. Then, after a season-ending injury to Reggie Porter, he became a wide receiver who moonlighted as a corner. Now, he’s a corner playing some wide receiver.

The toughest part so far has been learning the playbook, Hatfield said Tuesday. Against Idaho State, when he had two pass break-ups, coaches simplified things for him.

"Playing DB, that’s kind of a natural ability I was blessed with, and I’ve been playing it from a very young age, and my feet and my hips are very smooth," he said. "So playing DB wasn’t very rough at all, but learning the plays, there’s so many different terms and so many different looks you can get."

Teammate Justin Thomas said that Hatfield isn’t as good as Porter right now, but he’s a similar talent.

"He came in and he made good plays right away," Thomas said. "That’ll help us out a lot."

Hatfield said he realizes that at 5-10, he might not be the prototypical NFL wide receiver. Cornerback — in the mold of Cleveland’s 5-11 Joe Haden — might just be his ticket to playing on Sunday.

"I kind of feel that being a lock-down DB is better than being a big-time receiver," Hatfield said. "Just because it’s harder to come by a lock-down DB."

***

Arrived and kicking • Well, maybe not yet.

But sophomore placekicker Andy Phillips and his wife, Megan, welcomed into the world a 7 pound, 14-ounce baby boy on Tuesday.

***

Stout and stingy • With Utah’s size, physicality and inclination to play eight defenders in the box, they have traditionally been very tough to run against.

Last Thursday, that was not the case. Idaho State ran for 179 yards on 44 carries — 197 on 38 (5.2 average) if you take quarterback Justin Arias out of the equation.

That’s a far cry from the 130 per game they allowed last season.

Junior linebacker Jared Norris said Tuesday he expects a return to that against Fresno State on Saturday.

"Definitely, we’re going to stop the run this week," he said. "That’s the type of defense that we are. We’re run stoppers. We didn’t really show that last week, but last week’s in the past."

***

No more grades • After a zany moment in Monday’s press conference in which Kyle Whittingham asked Sports Information Director Liz Abel who had released offensive line grades, so that pesky reporters could ask about them, reporters were told Tuesday that offensive line grades are no longer to be part of the weekly release.

***

Back, Justin time • Thomas’ absence was notable last Thursday. Tuesday, he explained that he sat out because of a minor knee injury, and says he’s feeling "much better now," and expects to play Saturday. Thomas also gave an injury update on Porter, his roommate. He said Porter is recovery quickly from his surgery and is, as you’d expect, anxious to return to the field in 2015.

***

Aiono off-limits • The team declined to make junior center Siaosi Aiono available after practice. Aiono missed the Idaho State game for "things that are between me and him," Whittingham said at Monday’s presser, and is expected to start against Fresno State.

***

— Kyle Goon and Matthew Piper

kgoon@sltrib.com" target="_blank">class="NormalParagraphStyle">kgoon@sltrib.com and mpiper@sltrib.com

Twitter: @kylegoon



Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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