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Utah football: Former Ute delivers message to team
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated.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.

Former Utah safety Robert Johnson took time out during his bye week with the Tennessee Titans to pay the Utes a visit on Tuesday.

Johnson, who played for the Utes from 2007-09 and was a fifth-round draft choice in 2010, spoke at length to the team after practice.

"I haven't seen the team in a while since they've been in the Pac-12, and I appreciate everything they're doing," he said. "The season is a little bit rough, but it's not over."

Johnson follows the Utes as much as he can and reminded the team he wasn't the only one doing so.

"Everybody is watching, everybody is part of the Utah team, everybody who was here in the past are watching and supporting and we need them to play as good as we were playing," he said. "They have the talent, they have the players and same coaching staff, so they just have to go out there and perform."

Johnson, who was known for his easy-going attitude as much as his athleticism that helped him haul in 13 interceptions in his career, said he told the team to have fun even as it tries to reach bowl eligibility.

"The best way to have fun is to go bowling," he said. "You have two games left, so get out there and just have fun."

Johnson said playing in the NFL is lovely.

"I'm getting adjusted to it being a business, but it's fun," he said. "I miss being here, but it's fun."

New defender?

Senior receiver DeVonte Christopher, who has dropped off the depth chart after leading the Utes in receiving the last two seasons, took some reps with the defense Tuesday.

Christopher, who has had just one catch in the last four games, has offered to play on defense just so he could get into games. He might get his shot Saturday.

"He has a lot of athletic ability, and we are a little thin in the back end and have been all year and maybe we should have taken a look at that sooner," Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said. "But for a game like this one where it's all spread, four wides, you need a lot of secondary guys, so we will see if he can help us back there."

Stepping in

Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez, who hasn't revealed whether quarterback Matt Scott will play against the Utes, said he was impressed with the way backup B.J. Denker played in Scott's place.

Denker was 12-for-14 for 136 yards and ran nine times for 44 yards.

Denker joined the Wildcats in the summer after attending Cerritos College.

"There were a couple of decisions, a throw or two he'd like to have back, but he was very composed," Rodriguez said of Denker's debut. "He is learning very quickly and is a quick learner — we're certainly glad we brought him in."

College football • Robert Johnson encourages teamto have fun while chasing bowl-eligibility.
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