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Blaze: Whittaker picks up where Burley left off

Published May 2, 2008 1:57 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2008, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Turns out, the Utah Blaze's replacement for the great Siaha Burley has been right under their nose.

Huey Whittaker, the 6-foot-5, 220-pound receiver from South Florida, has been one of the few bright spots this season for the 0-9 Blaze, who host the Kansas City Brigade on Saturday night at EnergySolutions Arena.

Whittaker is second in the Arena Football League with 1,034 receiving yards and first with 85 catches. He is tied for ninth with 18 touchdowns.

"The season has been disappointing, regardless of what I've done, so there's not a lot to get excited about," Whittaker said. "It's been disappointing, because as a team we have so much talent."

Still, Whittaker's emergence - fellow receivers J.J. McKelvey and Aaron Boone are also having outstanding seasons - has made Blaze fans forget about Burley, who is now with Arizona but has struggled with injuries this season.

Last year, Whittaker was acquired by the Blaze midway through the season, but only played in one game, recording two receptions for 33 yards and a touchdown. They liked what they saw, however, and brought him back this year with the feeling that he would be a big part of the offense.

"I waited for a while to get on the field and show what I can do," Whittaker said. "I have definitely worked hard enough to know I could do it."

Whittaker had a franchise-high 20 catches last week against New Orleans, for more than 200 yards.

"Huey was catching everything," coach Danny White said. "A lot of them were in the boards and all that. Joe [Germaine] was trying to throw the ball away, and Huey was snatching them out of the crowd. I am really pleased with the way the receivers are playing."

McKelvey is tied for third in the league with 22 touchdown catches.

Clemson contribution

The Blaze roster includes three players from Clemson, but while McKelvey and linebacker Kelvin Morris have been mainstays all season, defensive lineman Maurice Fountain is just starting to get his chance. In his first game, against San Jose on April 18, Fountain had two sacks and a pass breakup.

He got the start last week against New Orleans, and will probably start at defensive end Saturday because E.J. Burt is listed as questionable.

"If I am mixed in, I am going to go out there and give it my all," Fountain said. "I am just going to be ready to give a great effort whenever I'm needed."

Fountain played in af2 last year and had 13 sacks in 16 games.

drew@sltrib.com

Saturday's game

Kansas City Brigade (1-7) at Utah Blaze (0-9) Saturday, 7 p.m.

TV: None

Radio: 1320 AM