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Utah football: Backfield newcomer Kelvin York not afraid of competition

Published March 29, 2012 10:21 pm

The juco transfer looks forward to competing with John White for time at running back.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

As a star player in junior college, Kelvin York had plenty of options to play major college football, with Washington, Ole Miss and Oregon among his suitors.

But York, a 5-foot-11, 225-pound back out of Fullerton College, chose the Utes even though he knew Utah already had a proven back in John White.

"I respect him but I'm a competitor too," York said. "I don't mind the competition. It will help us get better."

Seeing how that competition develops between York and White should be one of the prevailing themes through Utah's spring practice.

Offensive coordinator Brian Johnson said there is room for both backs, particularly since the Utes don't want to use White as much as they had to last year.

White set school records with 316 carries for 1,519 yards in 2011. The Utes were 8-0 when he rushed for more than 100 yards, but they still felt they depended on him too much, despite his durability.

"Running backs take so much wear and tear on their bodies, it's nice to have a guy who can still fill in and there won't be a drop-off," Johnson said. "John had a great season last year and kept getting stronger and stronger, but ideally you'd like to keep the backs fresh."

In addition to White and York, the Utes also have sophomore Harvey Langi and freshman Jarrell Oliver, who will get chances to prove themselves.

"We have a good group that I'm really excited about," Johnson said. "We'll find ways to get them on the field."

York originally committed to USC, but opened his recruiting process again in December after the Trojans stopped recruiting him because he'd suffered a knee injury during the 2011 season.

The Utes weren't scared off by the injury like the Trojans were and went after York. So far, the Louisiana native has shown no lingering side effects from the injury.

"We did our homework and talked to trainers and doctors and knew it would be nothing more than a minor setback," Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said of York's injury. "He is a punishing runner who has good size and quickness and excellent side-to-side abilities, too."

Johnson hasn't ruled out using a two-back system to take as much advantage of the talents of the running backs as possible.

Such a system would be OK with York and White, who said he welcomes the competition from York.

"I'm trying to stay ahead of the pack," White said. "But if it will help the team out, I'm all for it."

A powerful back, York rushed for 1,478 yards and 17 touchdowns and was the MVP of the 2010 Empire Bowl.

Succeeding at the junior college level is one thing. He already is learning succeeding at the major college level is a whole other challenge.

"The speed of this game is a lot faster," he said. "I still have to work on my footwork and get better at that … that is where I need to improve the most."

lwodraska@sltrib.com

Twitter: @lyawodraska —

About Kelvin York

Pos • Running back

Ht/Wt • 5-foot-11, 225 pounds

Hometown • Prairieville, La.

Noteworthy • Played at Fullerton College. … Committed to play at USC in May of 2011 but opened his recruiting process again after a knee injury during the 2011 season led to USC's backing off its recruiting. … Averaged 130.5 yards a game and 6.3 yards a carry in 2010. … As a high school senior, he rushed for 1,400 yards. He shared the rushing duties with Eddie Lacy, who is a running back at Alabama. —

Whittingham helps demolish Dee Glen Smith Center

Utah football coach Kyle Whittingham has spent much of his career building the Utes' football program. On Tuesday, the coach took some pleasure in tearing down part of the program.

Whittingham kicked off the demolition of the Dee Glen Smith Center by driving some equipment into the east side of the building.

The football center, which opened more than 20 years ago, is being replaced by a $30 million football facility, which is set to open in 2013.

The complex will feature a 12,000-square-foot sports medicine department, a cafeteria, a 6,500-square-foot locker room for the football players and a lounge.

There will be more than 24,000 square feet of offices, meeting rooms and an auditorium.

Whittingham has been pushing for a new building for several years, believing the Utes needed to modernize their facilities in order to compete with other Top 25 and Pac-12 programs.

"This facility will provide a great environment for our current players and will be a huge asset for us in recruiting," he said. "A lot of people have worked very hard to ensure that our new football center will rate among the best in the country."

The Utes also will have new practice fields once the project is complete. They are utilizing Rice-Eccles Stadium and the Spence Eccles Field House for practices until the project is completed.