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Ty Jordan’s track and field background aiding his emergence for Utah football

Utah running back Ty Jordan (22) carries the ball against Oregon State during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Dec. 5, 2020, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

Ty Jordan was always passionate about football, but didn’t have much, if any background in track and field. That changed not long after Jordan arrived at West Mesquite High School, roughly 15 miles outside of Dallas, in the fall of 2016.

“It was told to me my freshman year, ‘You gotta start running track, it’s going to help you with football,’” the University of Utah freshman running back told reporters on a Zoom call Tuesday morning. “Me being so passionate about football, this is going to make me better, make me faster, make me a better athlete, then hey, this is what I’m going to do.”

As a running back standing 5-foot-7, sprinting was a natural fit for Jordan, who was named Pac-12 Offensive Freshman of the Week Monday after rushing for 167 yards and a touchdown on 27 carries in the Utes’ 30-24 win over Oregon State Saturday night. Not only was the 100-meter dash a good fit for Jordan, despite not training in the event year-round in a state that is never short on elite sprinters, Jordan managed to excel.

Jordan ran a personal-best 10.52 as a junior at West Mesquite after going 10.83 or better eight times as a sophomore. For a football player moonlighting as a sprinter, Jordan was no slouch at 200 meters, either, hitting a personal-best 22.06 as a sophomore.

“Track, training for track, getting that speed in, really helped my game,” Jordan said. “It allows me to do certain things that I wouldn’t normally be able to do without it.”

Three games into his college career, Jordan has shown off the elusiveness and speed that a sprinting background can help build. Of the 44 times Jordan has run the ball, seven of them have gone for at least 11 yards. Those seven include runs of 46 and 35 at Washington, and a 31-yarder over the weekend against Oregon State.

For the season, Jordan is averaging a gaudy 6.7 yards per carry, and has established himself as Utah’s No. 1 option out of the backfield after a four-way rotation with Devin Brumfield, Jordan Wilmore and Micah Bernard emerged during fall camp.

UTAH AT NO. 21 COLORADO

When • Friday, 7:30 p.m.

TV • FS1

All of this speaks to the fact that 16th-year Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham likes to recruit skill-position players with a track and field background. More specifically, Whittingham said Monday that if he or his staff is recruiting a skill-position player, particularly wide receiver or cornerback, and that recruit does not have a track background, it may indicate a red flag.

“If a guy has not run track, a skill guy, you better do your homework because sometimes, that means his top end [speed] is not what it needs to be,” Whittingham said. “That’s a big factor in recruiting. It comes into play at running back as well, and that’s one of Ty’s biggest assets, his speed and his quickness. Quickness is every bit as important for a running back as top end, so that is always examined and delved into when you’re looking at skill players.”

For what it’s worth, Utah’s highest-profile recruit for the class of 2021, four-star quarterback Peter Costelli, is a track guy. As a junior at Mission Viejo (Calif.) High School, Costelli ran the 100 in 10.82, while going 10.89 or better two other times.

Utah freshman cornerback Caine Savage was a long-sprint specialist at Western High School in Anaheim, running the 200 in 21.4 seconds and the 400 in 48.87 as a junior.

Classmate Faybian Marks, another cornerback whose future Whittingham is high on, also long-sprinted in high school, going as low as 21.26 for 200 meters as a junior.

Utes will know Dec. 19 foe no later than Sunday

Beyond Friday night’s game at Colorado (7:30 p.m., Fox Sports 1), Utah will play a to-be-determined opponent on Dec. 19. Whittingham said Tuesday he expects to know who the opponent is and where the game will be played as early as Saturday night, but no later than Sunday morning so preparations can begin.

When the Pac-12 announced Sept. 24 that it would play a shortened, no-bye seven-game schedule, the league scheduled the Pac-12 championship game for Dec. 18, with everyone else playing an inter-divisional game on Dec. 19. After a slew of cancellations since the Pac-12′s season began on Nov. 7, the inter-divisional plan for Dec. 19 is up in the air, but regardless, games are expected to be played.

“As coaches, we don’t pay any attention to that because we don’t care at this point,” said Whittingham, who also noted he has been given no indication as to whether or not it would be a home game. “It’s all Colorado and we can’t look past that, even if we knew who the opponent was. Once this game is over with, the sooner we know, the better, obviously.”

One working theory for Dec. 19 is that Utah would host Arizona in a makeup of the canceled Nov. 7 season opener that was to be played at Rice-Eccles Stadium. That game was axed because of a Utes virus outbreak, and Arizona was unable to play another opponent that weekend.

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