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Utah football: Kicking situation no laughing matter for Utes

Published August 26, 2011 8:40 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated.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.

There is a common thought in football that no one pays attention to kickers until they mess up.

Unfortunately for the Utes, their kickers are getting a lot of attention lately.

While Utah's depth chart is fairly settled at all other places, the kicking game remains, as coach Kyle Whittingham put it, "an adventure."

Neither sophomore Nick Marsh, who is one of those rare kickers who was awarded a scholarship, nor walk-on Coleman Petersen have been consistent enough in practice to satisfy Utah's coaches.

The duo have been so erratic that when Whittingham was asked this week who was in the lead, he joked, "It would be me if we had to kick today."

The kickers weren't put in any pressure situations Wednesday, with the hopes they'll settle down and have a better day Thursday.

The Utes have been spoiled by good kickers lately, with Louie Sakoda and then Joe Phillips manning the position.

Whittingham isn't looking for one of the current kickers to be "King Louie," or be as consistent as Phillips, who was 33 of 39 on field goal attempts for his career. However, he would like to see one kick consistently for several days.

"We've got to get it settled," he said.

Even as he tried to make light of the situation, the dilemma clearly bugged Whittingham. Asked to give a rundown of the team and what the Utes know, he said the defensive line was strong, the secondary has been the biggest surprise and the offensive line will be better once key players recover from injuries. Backup quarterback Jon Hays has made enough progress that Whittingham said the Utes "wouldn't hesitate to put him in a game if they have to go that route."

Then he added, "I don't know much about the kickers, I can tell you that."

All a process

The Utes awarded a backup defensive back, Quade Chappuis, a scholarship last week. Whittingham said he deserved it after the work he has put in at camp and the Utes expect he'll contribute, although he isn't on the depth chart.

Interesting that Tauni Vakapuna, who is slated as the No. 2 running back, remains a walk-on.

Whittingham said that Vakapuna is "headed in the direction," of earning a scholarship, then explained the decision of who gets one of the team's 85 scholarships and who doesn't isn't as simple as it seems.

"There are a lot of things involved," he said. "It's a numbers game and about scholarships at positions and some walk-ons require scholarships right away, some don't. The main thing is the contribution to the team, what their status is with travel squad and where they can contribute on special teams and that kind of thing."

Time for fans

The Utes will hold their annual Fan Fest from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at Rice-Eccles Stadium. Parking and admission are free.