Utah athletic director Chris Hill has heard the theory before that teams such as Utah and BYU have an unfair advantage because some of their players are older since they went on an LDS mission before enrolling in college.
He never put much stock into that argument in the past, and he isn’t now either.
Hill laughed off the possibility that Utah might have an unfair advantage in Saturday’s game because the Utah players are more mature than Arizona’s since some of the Utes are return missionaries.
"You can flip it over and think of it as an advantage on one side and flip to the other and think of it as a disadvantage," he said. "Everybody has some advantage or another. That is why you go play the game."
Columnist Greg Hansen discussed the theory in a column Thursday in the Arizona Daily Star, noting Utah has 23 players on the roster who are or will turn 23 years old this season.
The Wildcats have four players who are 23 years old, according to the article.
Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez is quoted on the difference in age as saying, "A lot of people talk about young players being inexperienced, but I think the biggest factor is strength," he said. "You’re not as strong when you’re 18 or 19 as you are when you’re 22, 23 or 25."
Hill said the number of return missionaries on the Utes’ roster never has been broached as a concern by the Pac-12.
"It’s something people tease us about all the time, but it has been like that forever," he said. "You can complain on anything. A lot of times these guys come back and they aren’t ready to play, but people don’t see that side of it."
Keep your eyes on him
While Utah’s main defensive concern is Arizona running back Ka’Deem Carey, quarterback B.J. Denker causes his own problems for defenses, Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said.
Denker went 28 of 44 for 363 yards against the Trojans in Arizona’s loss and is 73 of 134 for 808 yards and six touchdowns, with two interceptions, this season.
He also has rushed 62 times for 276 yards and six touchdowns.
"He is a good quarterback," Whittingham said. "Even when he pulls it on the zone read, he can still stand up and throw it, so he is a concern."
Rodriguez, Arizona’s coach, said he felt Denker found his rhythm against the Trojans and did a better job anticipating where his receivers were going to be.
"Sometimes we forget this is only his second year in the system and he has limited experience, so it was good to see him grow into that," he said. "He is a smart guy and now we need to see him be more consistent week to week."
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