Football is a lot less complicated for Utah junior Thretton Palamo this spring. Rather than having to worry about who to block or how to read the defense, the game has been simplified into one task — get the quarterback.
Palamo, a former captain of the USA Rugby team who joined the Utes last season, is getting a shot at defensive end this spring.
Palamo was moved from running back, where the Utes are very deep, to the defensive side of the ball, where they could use a guy like Palamo.
At 6-foot-2 and 250 pounds, Palamo has the quickness and the physicality the Utes love at the end.
He is splitting reps at right end with sophomore Nate Fakahafua, who sprained his ankle earlier in camp, giving Palamo even more opportunities than planned.
"I thought it would be easier, but running with the first team, I was dying," Palamo said.
Conditioning is just part of the game in which Palamo knows he must improve. He is still learning the nuances of football after concentrating on rugby for so many years.
There aren’t as many skills he can transfer from his rugby days to the defensive side as he could when he was a running back, he said, but the instincts are more natural.
"I just have to go after the quarterback — that is my job," he said.
Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said the Utes haven’t forgotten about Jon Hays, the backup quarterback who started the last nine games after Wynn was hurt.
Hays has gotten few reps in spring ball, with freshmen Travis Wilson and Chase Hansen getting most of the time.
"We don’t think any less of him," Whittingham said. "He is a proven commodity, but it’s a matter of trying to figure out what we have with the young guys."
Tight end David Rolf remains sidelined with a calf injury that is lingering more than the Utes expected, and he could be out another 10 days, Whittingham said.
"We hope to get him back at some point," Whittingham said.
"We don’t think it’s career-ending, and he should be 100 percent at some point. The positive is Jake Murphy and Westlee Tonga are taking more reps and developing. Jake made some great catches, and he is starting to do the things we knew he was capable of."
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