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Utah football: Former receiver Mo Lee makes smooth transition to cornerback

Published August 18, 2011 1:30 pm

U. football notes • Junior Lee fights for starting role at corner.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated.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.

Often players hesitate when coaches ask them to change positions in college. Leaving a familiar position for unknown territory can be a bit scary.

But when the Utes asked Mo Lee to switch from receiver to cornerback, the junior jumped at the chance for a new role. Now the transfer from Palomar Community College (Calif.) is making a jump on the depth chart.

Lee is pushing for a starting role at corner, where junior Ryan Lacy and Conroy Black were penciled in to start.

Lee has been drawing the most praise from coaches, with Kyle Whittingham saying he has never seen a player make a transition as fast as Lee to a new position.

That is saying a lot, considering the Utes have been extremely successful in switching players from offense to defense, with players such as Paul Kruger and Sean Smith excelling on the defense.

As for Lee, the Utes moved him because he was buried on a deep receivers depth chart and they wanted to get him on the field. It didn't take long for Lee to show it was the right move.

"He does a lot of natural things," Whittingham said. "His footwork and hand work, he is very instinctive at that position."

Lee, who runs the 40-yard dash in 4.4 seconds, played some defense in high school which helped him make the transition. Having a defensive-minded attitude helped, too.

"At receiver, I was very aggressive and sometimes that got me into trouble," he said.

Told he was being moved in the spring, Lee used the summer to work on his footwork and familiarize himself with his defensive teammates.

He is still on a learning curve, he said, but has no misgivings about the transition.

"I'm loving it," he said.

All for it

Whittingham was glad to hear that administrators in the Pac-12 and Big Ten could push for a "plus-one" format in the BCS. Under the format, the top four teams would play, with the winners going on to the national title game.

"Anything that gets us closer to a playoff, I'm all for it and that would be a step closer in my mind," Whittingham said.

The Seattle Times reported this week that athletic directors had approved the proposal, but later commissioners from the leagues denied the report.

This and that

The Utes get back to work Monday with two sessions after having Sunday off. … Tauni Vakapuna, listed as the No. 2 running back behind John White, has a sore knee but the injury isn't thought to be serious. … The Utes will hold a "social media day" Thursday, with many athletes participating in Facebook and Twitter conversations from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on UtahUtes.com. —

Key dates ahead

Tuesday • Scrimmage

Saturday • Scrimmage

Aug. 22 • Camp ends, regular practices begin

Sept. 1 • Season opener vs. Montana State, 1 p.m.