Utah football: Injuries force Utes to make adjustments (video)
By Lya Wodraska
The Salt Lake TribuneFirst published Aug 30 2013 12:48PM
There were moments when the Utah Utes looked like the team they thought they could be in Thursday’s 30-26 win over the Aggies. There just weren’t enough of those moments.
"There were a lot of positives in the game," Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said. "But there are just a lot of things, with our schedule in front of us, that we have to get better at."
Luckily for the Utes, they host Weber State in a game that should help them tune up for the more difficult stretch that features Oregon State and BYU.
The Utes had a light workout planned for Friday and are taking the weekend off before resuming preparations on Monday.
The most pressing areas to address are holes in the lineups due to injuries.
The Utes lost starting receiver Kenneth Scott for the season with a lower leg injury and running back Kelvin York didn’t return in the second half with an undisclosed injury after rushing 10 times for 30 yards in the first half.
Also missing was linebacker Brian Blechen, who had surgery earlier this week in hopes of easing the tendinitis in his knees. Blechen could return in several weeks — or could be redshirted. Whittingham said the Utes will wait to decide what to do with Blechen.
In the meantime, senior Trevor Reilly will continue to play both defensive end and linebacker, a necessity that leaves the Utes thinner at those positions.
"Trevor is going to continue to move around and play various positions," Whittingham said. "But in this day and age and with the tempo, you have to have a two deep defensively. That is something we have to work on."
Senior Thretton Palamo will continue to get much of the playing time at right end in Reilly’s place, but the Utes also expect to have sophomore Jason Whittingham, the coach’s nephew, in the lineup soon as well.
Whittingham injured his hand during fall camp and had to have surgery. While he doesn’t discuss injuries, Kyle Whittingham said during camp that the defensive end should be ready for the Weber State game.
"We’re anxiously awaiting his return," the coach said Friday.
The running back role is in flux, too, with York’s uncertain status.
The Utes finished with just 148 yards rushing, with James Poole rushing 12 times for 47 yards and Karl Williams rushing 12 times for 45 yards.
"We were nowhere near productive enough in the run game and not efficient enough," Whittingham said. "It has to get better. We averaged 3.4 yards a carry and that isn’t good enough, so we have to take a look at that and see which direction we want to go."
Utah co-offensive coordinator Dennis Erickson liked the way both Poole and Williams developed in the fall, with Poole being a more elusive runner while Williams is more physical.
Williams fumbled Thursday night in the third quarter, then redeemed himself by recovering an onside kick that sparked Utah’s rally from a 23-17 deficit.
All the lineup changes, plus the usual tweaks after an opening performance, means the Utes have a long to-do list as they prepare for Weber State.
"We’ve got a lot of things to improve upon," Whittingham said. "We’re an average team right now and we have to get better."