With the kickoff to Utah’s 2018 season 100 days away, a potential addition to the roster seems more likely than ever before.
A week after ESPN 960 reported that former BYU linebacker Francis Bernard would play for the Utes this fall, Utah coach Kyle Whittingham was asked Tuesday if the 6-foot-1, 240-pound linebacker and former Herriman High standout would suit up in red.
“Well, we’ll find out,” Whittingham said during an interview on ESPN700 Tuesday morning. “Francis is doing things he needs to do to get himself eligible. That’s anywhere he would choose to go, you’ve got to do the certain things to get yourself right with the NCAA as far as transfer requirements and so he’s going through that process and we’ll just have to see what transpires.”
Bernard was on hand during Utah spring football practices in March. In an interview with The Tribune on March 7, the former BYU starting linebacker said he was exploring his options. Bernard has been taking online classes at Rio Salado College in Arizona to finish requirements for his associate’s degree.
Bernard was suspended by BYU and redshirted in 2017 after honor code violations in August. During that time, Bernard’s brother, James Bernard, told The Tribune that Bernard’s intention was to transfer to Utah. A couple of months later, after Bernard was arrested on suspicion of DUI in October, BYU coach Kalani Sitake said Bernard was granted his release from the program and could transfer to any school he desired.
When on the field, Bernard was an anchor for the BYU defense. In 2016, he had 80 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, two sacks and three interceptions. Bernard missed the 2016 Poinsettia Bowl victory over Wyoming due to being suspended for violating team rules.
Bernard told The Tribune in March that he’d be eligible to play this year for whatever program he ends up choosing to transfer to.
His potential addition would undoubtedly be a boost to an already-talented linebacker corps. Despite losing former seniors and last year’s top two leading tacklers in Kavika Luafatasaga and Sunia Tauteoli, Utah has several key returners from last year in the mix including senior Cody Barton, junior Donavan Thompson and senior Chase Hansen, who made the full-time move to linebacker this spring.
“He’s a talented player,” Whittingham said of Bernard. “We’ll see what happens. You’re not allowed to comment much on a particular player other than he’s out there working hard, getting ready, but I think that’s very obvious to those who’ve watched him play.”