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Is physical play of Pac-12 football taking its toll on Utes?

Published October 22, 2011 12:05 am

Utah football notes • Coach suspects rougher play in new league, players blame "freak" accidents.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated.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.

The Utah Utes have suffered four major season-ending injuries and several starters have missed games due to myriad health issues, including ankle sprains, concussions and shoulder traumas.

Such wear and tear is exactly why the Utes have stressed they need more depth to survive in the Pac-12, a league where the play is much more physical than it was in the Mountain West, according to Utah coach Kyle Whittingham.

However, Utah's players insist they feel little difference between the way their opponents play this year and those they experienced in the past and don't believe the number of injuries are related to the quality of opponents they face.

"Maybe it's because I've gotten bigger, but I don't feel it's any more physical," said 271-pound defensive end Derrick Shelby. "Guys are flying around out there all day and playing hard, and freak things happen. You can't stop guys from getting hurt."

Four players, quarterback Jordan Wynn (shoulder), punt returner Charles Henderson (knee), tight end Dallin Rogers (knee) and safety Keith McGill (shoulder) all have been lost for the season with injuries.

Offensive lineman Tony Bergstrom said he watched the injuries on film and called them "freak things."

"I don't know if it is more physical this year," he said. "Dallin, I was watching what happened to him and he just got hit in the knee. It was hard to watch. Jordan's is like a genetic thing and the shoulder just doesn't want to stay in place. He was just handing the ball off. I think we've had some sheer bad luck in our case."

Of note

Utah has 32 players on its roster from California. … John White leads Utah in all-purpose yards (697). … Brian Blechen is tied for fourth in the Pac-12 in interceptions per game (0.33).

lwodraska@sltrib.com