Utah football: Utes will have hands full with ASU running back
The Utes will face one of the most versatile backs in the country Saturday when Marion Grice leads the Sun Devils against Utah.
Grice, a 6-foot, 204-pound senior, has rushed 129 times for 647 yards and 12 touchdowns and has 35 receptions for 333 yards and six touchdowns.
He ranks 11th nationally in all-purpose yards, averaging 162.3, and is first in scoring, averaging 13.5 points.
"He is a terrific player," Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said. "All he does is score touchdowns. It seems every fifth or sixth time he touches the ball, he is in the end zone."
The Utes rank fifth in the Pac-12 against the run, holding teams to an average of 141.5 yards.
But Grice's receiving skills make him particularly difficult for defenses.
"He is a great fit for what they are doing," Whittingham said. "A lot of people are playing their roles to perfection on that team."
If the Utes lose to Arizona State on Saturday, it apparently won't be because of a bad attitude.
The Utes have put together several solid and spirited practices this week, prompting Whittingham to frequently compliment his players.
"The work ethic in this group continues to be good," he said. "They have a lot of energy and enthusiasm. All we have to do is solve the turnover margin. That is the issue on this team. We talk about it, talk about it and we have to solve it."
Utah quarterback Travis Wilson said the team hasn't done anything in particular to rev up practices, but he said it has worked hard to improve.
"This whole week we've been competitive," he said. "We're trying to get a little more juice and excitement, especially in the team stuff when we go against the defense. We have to make sure that carries over to the game."
Wilson, who practiced without the protective glove on his throwing hand all week, said he was pleased with his throwing in practice and declared himself 100 percent.
"The hand is good, it's feeling great," he said.
Wilson has thrown four interceptions in the last two games after injuring his hand.
Coaches are friends without football talk
Whittingham said he was unaware of all the radio and social media discussion of the friendship between BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall and Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen, Whittingham's former assistant.
Mendenhall said this week that he and Andersen have grown closer since Andersen left the Utes following the 2008 season to become the coach at Utah State with Andersen becoming "more open and normal," about the friendship.
Apparently Whittingham's friendship with Andersen remains strong as well as Whittingham said the two talk frequently, including this week.
"We don't talk a lot of football; believe it or not, we talk about other stuff," he said.
While Whittingham said he had no interest in Saturday's game, he added, "Gary is a close friend and I hope his program does well always."