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Utah football: John Cullen ready for homecoming

Published September 8, 2011 11:48 pm

Utah football • Lineman who picked U. over USC "cant wait to play in that smog heat again."
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Utah offensive lineman John Cullen got the cobwebs cleared from his head just in time. If there is one game Cullen wouldn't want to miss, it would be Saturday's game at USC.

Cullen, who hails from La Mirada, Calif., and went to Fullerton College, picked the Utes over the Trojans.

Now he can't wait to compete against the Trojans in what amounts to a homecoming game for him.

"As soon as this one was on the schedule, I had friends texting me and hitting me up for tickets," he said. "I can't wait to play in that smog heat again."

The Utes can't wait to have Cullen back in the lineup either after the senior missed the opener with a concussion.

Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said junior Miles Mason, who joined the team late in camp, played well in Cullen's absence at left tackle, but having Cullen back is a huge boost for a team that struggled with injuries to its offensive line in the preseason.

Cullen is an all-conference candidate who started 12 games last year.

"It's what you want, your best guys out there," Whittingham said. "All of our offensive line is healthy now so that is a big plus."

Funeral information

The Utes have released information for the funeral of Janelle Tongaonevai, the wife of Utah football player Ron Tongaonevai who was killed in an auto accident last Thursday, hours after Utah's season opener. The viewing will be held Thursday at the LDS Kearns 3rd Ward at 4715 S. 4300 West at 6 p.m.

The funeral is scheduled for Friday at 11 a.m.

Whittingham expressed sympathy for the Tongaonevai family during Tuesday's press conference.

"We are here to support and help Ron through this difficult time," he said. "I don't have a blueprint for this and have never dealt with anything like it, but we are trying our best to make sure we give Ron every bit of support we can."

Redshirt possible

Whittingham said plans are to redshirt receiver Anthony Denham, a junior who missed most of camp with a hamstring injury.

"Nothing is definite, but it is looking that way unless something unforeseen happens," Whittingham said.

Denham was contending for a starting role, but the 6-foot-4, 231-pound junior college transfer remains hampered by the injury and hasn't caught up to his other teammates.

"Even today he can't run all out," Whittingham said.

lwodraska@sltrib.comTwitter: @lyawodraska