Utah football notes: Erickson is keeping two tight end sets
By Lya Wodraska
The Salt Lake TribuneFirst published Oct 10 2013 01:53PM
Utah co-offensive coordinator Dennis Erickson plans to continue using two tight end sets despite injuries to the two starters at that position.
Erickson expressed confidence in the players expected to replace injured Jake Murphy and Westlee Tonga.
Murphy is expected to miss the rest of the season after undergoing wrist surgery, while Tonga continues to be sidelined with a knee injury suffered in the BYU game.
In their absence, the Utes have turned to freshman Siale Fakailoatonga (6 foot 4, 245 pounds) and juco transfers Greg Reese (6-5, 250) and Evan Moeai (6-3, 247).
The Utes still plan to redshirt their other tight end, freshman Harrison Handley (6-5, 235).
"We are happy with where they are at," Erickson said about the starters’ replacements. "They’ve practiced well and they are stepping up, so we aren’t going to change anything. We’re still going to go with two tight ends and do everything we’ve been doing. The bottom line is you don’t do different things, you just get the younger guys ready to go."
Erickson likes the athleticism of Fakailoatonga, who has two catches for 18 yards, while Reese is a good blocker whose progress was slowed with injuries in fall camp.
He is healthy now and asserting himself more in practice. Moeai is a bit behind the other two after joining the team just before classes started.
"He has talent too," Erickson said about Moeai. "That is why we recruited him. We’re happy with this group. You lose two guys, but then it’s next man up."
Utah coach Kyle Whittingham has coached numerous games in his career as an assistant and coach, but the Utes’ 17-10 win over Stanford in 1996 remains fresh in his mind.
Whittingham, then the defensive coordinator, coached a defensive unit that shut out Stanford for three quarters and gave up just 60 yards on 21 rushing attempts.
"We played well all day long," said Whittingham, before reeling off the names of several players who were keys to the win, including running backs Juan Johnson and Chris Fuamatu-Ma’afala and quarterback Mike Fouts.
"They got some points at the end, but it was a good defensive game for us," Whittingham said.
The win sparked a seven-game winning streak for the Utes, who finished the year 8-4 and were ranked as high as No. 20 in the AP poll.
The Cardinal finished 7-5.
Utah leads the country in fewest fumbles lost (one) and is tied for the Pac-12 lead with Stanford in red zone offense (.944). ... Softball player Jackie Sweet will be presented the 2012-13 Occie Evans Award, which honors Utah’s outstanding senior female student-athlete in a team sport.