Whittingham: Gary Andersen a potential candidate to join Utes staff

Oregon State head coach Gary Andersen during an NCAA college football game in Corvallis, Ore., on Saturday, Sept. 17, 2016.

The Utes as well as the rest of Football Bowl Championship Subdivision staffs will be allowed to add a 10th full-time on-field assistant coaching position starting Jan. 9.

Former Utah player and assistant Gary Andersen immediately comes to mind as a candidate to join coach Kyle Whittingham’s staff, and Whittingham remains open to that possibility.

Andersen, who also has served as coach at Southern Utah, Utah State, Wisconsin and Oregon State, resigned from Oregon State and waived the remainder of his contract Oct. 9. He served as an assistant on the Utes’ staff from 1997 to 2002 and 2004 to 2008.

“Gary is a heck of a football coach and a close friend of mine, and he’s available right now so he’s certainly a potential hire for us,” Whittingham told The Tribune. “But early January is when that date is.

“Right now it seems to make the most sense to bring in a defensive coach to balance out the staff because right now there’s five assistants on offense and four on D. That would seem to make the most sense. It’s not an absolute or a guaranteed direction that we’ll go. I think a lot of it depends on if we have any movement on the current staff.”

Whittingham said he was not aware of any members of his coaching staff having been contacted about leaving for other coaching jobs.

The Utes have had nine offensive coordinators over a 10-year span with Troy Taylor being the latest. The Utes ranked higher in the Pac-12 Conference in both passing yards per game (sixth, 256.4) and pass efficiency (seventh, 134.7) this season under Taylor than any other year since joining the conference in 2011.

While the Utes also produced their sixth 1,000-yard rusher in seven seasons in Zack Moss, they still finished in the bottom half of the conference in total offense (seventh, 417.7) and scoring offense (ninth, 29.5 ppg).

Whittingham would not comment specifically on whether Taylor would be back next season, but said, “I thought we made a lot of progress this year from Game 1 to the end. I think the players started feeling very comfortable in the scheme, and we seemed to get some momentum, offensively, as the season wore on.”

Huntley status uncertain

Utes starting quarterback Tyler Huntley sat out Saturday’s regular-season finale against Colorado with an undisclosed injury that kept him out of practice all week leading up to the game. Huntley, who ranked second in the Pac-12 in total offense (302.9 yards per game), suffered a shoulder injury against Arizona that forced him to miss almost three quarters of that game as well as two other games.

“I can just tell you it was a new injury, and depending on when the bowl game is will determine whether he’s ready or not,” Whittingham said about Huntley’s latest ailment.

Here and there

Former Brighton High standout running back Sione Lund announced on Twitter that he has decided to transfer from Stanford to the University of Utah. Lund was rated a four-star recruit coming out of Brighton. He rushed for 1,184 yards and 14 touchdowns on 113 carries (10.5 yards per carry) as a senior. He did not play as a true freshman this season for Stanford. He thanked the Stanford staff in his post and said he was “excited to be a Utah man.” … For the first time the Utes will have two players as national award finalists at the Home Depot College Football Awards in Atlanta on Dec. 7. Punter and 2016 Ray Guy Award winner Mitch Wishnowsky will try to repeat as the nation’s top punter, while kicker Matt Gay is one of three finalists for the Lou Groza Collegiate Place-Kicker Award honoring the nation’s top kicker. The winners will be announced live on ESPN. Fan voting continues through Thursday for both the Groza Award at www.lougrozaaward.com and the Ray Guy Award at http://rayguyaward.com/. The finalist with the most votes will get one additional vote toward the final total.