Pac-12: Harvey Langi

Some news out of Utah over the weekend with the announcement that backup running back Harvey Langi would put his career on hold and serve his LDS mission. He'll head to Tampa, Fla., later this month and will rejoin the team in 2014.

Langi was tied with Kelvin York as the immediate backup to standout running back John White IV, a junior college transfer who made an instant impact in the conference last season when he rushed for 1,519 yards and 15 touchdowns on a conference-leading 316 carries.

Langi, a highly-touted running back out of Bingham High School (South Jordan, Utah) had just 13 carries for 70 yards in his freshman campaign. However, he had a very impressive spring, had added some good weight and had caught the eye of head coach Kyle Whittingham.

"He's starting to play the way we envisioned he would when we recruited him out of high school," Whittingham told the Deseret News following Utah's spring practice sessions. "The light switch is starting to come on for Harvey."

Whittingham also told the Salt Lake Tribune that he felt Langi was Utah's "Most improved player" at the end of spring ball.

It is Utah's policy not to comment on players leaving for their mission.

The loss doesn't leave the Utes completely barren at the running back spot. White is still one of the marquee running backs in the conference and will carry the load in the ground game. Last year he was second in the Pac-12 and 11th nationally in rushing (116.8 yards per game) while earning second-team all-conference honors.

York, a mid-year JC transfer from Fullerton College, averaged 130.5 yards per game and 6.3 yards per rush in 2010. He and Langi are both over 220 pounds and were expected to be a nice complement to the 186-pound White. The Utes had also experimented with Langi and York playing some fullback and/or multi-running back sets. Though Langi will be gone, there's no reason that York won't be able to handle that load and provide quality reps to spell White.

Redshirt freshman Jarrell Oliver also had a strong spring session and has good size at 5-8, 210 pounds. With Langi's departure, York likely assumes the No. 2 spot by himself and Oliver jumps up to No. 3.
The Pac-12 features another strong crop of running backs -- seven return after compiling more than 900 yards rushing in 2011 -- but there are also a few teams facing uncertainty at the position.

Evaluations aren't easy here. A number of teams have an A-list leading rusher back but uncertain depth. Others have plenty of experience returning but no proven A-lister. So stars and depth matter here.

A general impression: Running back is strong position in the conference. No team has a sense of desperation here.

So how does it stack up?

Great shape

Stanford: Stepfan Taylor was second-team All-Pac-12 last year after rushing for 1,330 yards and 10 touchdowns. But the Cardinal also welcomes back its second- and third-leading rushers, Tyler Gaffney and Anthony Wilkerson, as well as Ricky Seale, who was impressive this spring. And, of course, there's a guy called BARRY SANDERS arriving in the fall.

[+] EnlargeJohn White
Chris Morrison/US PresswireJohn White is the Pac-12's leading returning rusher -- and could get help in the Utah backfield.
Utah: John White, also second-team All-Pac-12 in 2011, is the conference's leading returning rusher with 1,519 yards last year. He was mostly a one-man show -- he led the conference in carries -- but that won't be the case this fall. Harvey Langi and Kelvin York, both over 220 pounds, showed they are ready to contribute quality reps this spring.

California: Isi Sofele ranked fifth in the conference with 1,322 yards rushing in 2011, but he'll have to old off a challenge from C.J. Anderson -- 345 yards and eight TDs in 2011 -- to retain his starting job this fall. The depth is strong with Brendan Bigelow, Daniel Lasco and Darren Ervin.

Arizona State: The Sun Devils have both a star in Cameron Marshall and good depth. Marshall rushed for 1,050 and 18 touchdowns last season. Depth? Kyle Middlebrooks, James Morrison, Deantre Lewis, Marion Grice and incoming freshman D.J. Foster will be battling for touches.

Oregon: The Ducks are difficult to rate. If everything falls into place -- and it's reasonable to believe they will -- Kenjon Barner, LaMichael James' longtime backup, will become a star, spectacular hybrid RB/WR De'Anthony Thomas will make a bunch of big plays in a change-of-pace role and touted incoming freshman Byron Marshall will become the third option. Nonetheless, one injury here would be a major blow.

USC: The Trojans are just like the Ducks: Top-heavy with questionable depth. The underrated Curtis McNeal -- the 1,000-yard rusher averaged 6.9 yards per carry in 2011 -- is back, and so is D.J. Morgan, who rushed for 163 yards last year. If redshirt freshman Javorious "Buck" Allen and incoming freshman Nelson Agholor step up, things should be fine. But depth here is one of the Trojans' few question marks.

Good shape

UCLA: Johnathan Franklin is back, and he's been highly productive -- if fumble-prone -- for a while. Malcolm Jones, who rushed for 103 yards in 2011, is back, and Steven Manfro was a spring standout. While the position isn't spectacular for the Bruins, it's certainly not a chief worry heading into the season.

Arizona: Is promising sophomore Ka'Deem Carey ready to become a star? He rushed for 425 yards last year and looked good this spring. There's also good depth behind him: Daniel Jenkins, Taimi Tutogi, Kylan Butler, Greg Nwoko and Jared Baker.

Washington State: The two leading rushers from 2011, Rickey Galvin and Carl Winston, are back, and they combined for more than 1,000 yards. But sophomore Marcus Mason was with the No. 1 offense during the spring game, and Leon Brooks also is in the mix. Catching the ball well will be almost as important as taking a handoff under new coach Mike Leach.

Washington: Workhorse Chris Polk is gone, but Jesse Callier and Bishop Sankey both saw plenty of action in 2011. Might Deontae Cooper get healthy -- finally -- and work his way into the picture? Like a lot of teams, the Huskies have the potential to be fine here. But it's reasonable to expect the running game to take a step back this fall, particularly with issues on the O-line.

We'll see

Oregon State: Everybody is back, but no Beaver rushed for more than 423 yards last year. And, of course, Oregon State was one of the nation's worst rushing teams. The pecking order also didn't seem to completely work itself out, though redshirt freshman Storm Woods had a strong spring.

Colorado: The good news is Tony Jones had a good spring and looks capable of replacing the departed Rodney Stewart. Still, he averaged 3.8 yards per rush in 2011. Josh Ford rushed for 128 yards last season. Depth is a bit uncertain also, with D.D. Goodson and Malcolm Creer, who is coming back from a knee injury.

Utah spring wrap

May, 14, 2012
5/14/12
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2011 overall record: 8-5
2011 conference record: 4-5 (T 3rd, South)
Returning starters: Offense: 9; defense: 7; punter/kicker: 2

Top returners
QB Jordan Wynn, DT Star Lotulelei, RB John White, WR DeVonte Christopher, S Brian Blechen, OL Sam Brenner.

Key losses
OL Tony Bergstrom, DE Derrick Shelby; LB Chaz Walker, OL John Cullen.

2011 statistical leaders (*returning)
Rushing: John White* (1,519 yards)
Passing: Jon Hays* (1,459 yards)
Receiving: DeVonte Christopher* (663 yards)
Tackles: Chaz Walker (118)
Sacks: Derrick Shelby, Trevor Reilly* (5)
Interceptions: Conroy Black (4)

Spring answers
1. High hopes: Quarterback Jordan Wynn is healthy -- hopefully for more than just a few weeks at a time. After a fantastic true freshman year, Wynn's career has been hijacked by multiple injuries that have limited his time. He's put on more weight (up to about 210) and if he stays healthy, should have great success with Brian Johnson running the offense.

2. LB answers: The Utes had some holes to fill at the linebacker spot with the departures of Chaz Walker and Matt Martinez, leaving Trevor Reilly as the only returning starter. But V.J. Fehoko appears to have won the job at the middle linebacker spot and either Jacoby Hale or LT Filiaga will fill the rover spot.

3. RB depth: John White had more carries than any other running back in the conference last season. That's a lot of wear and tear, so developing some guys behind him was crucial. Harvey Langi and Kelvin York established themselves as the guys behind White. Both are bigger -- Langi is 228 and York is 225 -- so they'll be a nice change of pace from the speedier White.

Fall questions
1. Who has Wynn's back? Developing a guy behind Wynn -- giving his history of injury -- is pretty crucial. It looks like Jon Hays would probably be the guy if Wynn goes down again -- which makes sense -- because the Utes probably don't want to burn a redshirt year on Travis Wilson or Chase Hansen. But on his latest depth chart, head coach Kyle Whittingham left an "OR" between Hays and Wilson, leaving the door open that maybe he has a little more faith in Wilson.

2. Who has Wynn's backside? The Utes have to fill two substantial holes left by departed tackles John Cullen and Tony Bergstrom. As of now, Percy Taumoelau is penciled in at left tackle and Daniel Nielson is slotted for the right tackle. But Whittingham has said those aren't set in stone. Cullen and Bergstrom were two of the best in the conference. No easy job stepping in for those guys.

3. DL depth: Up front, Utah is probably as good as anyone in the conference with Lotulelei, Joe and Dave Kruger and Nate Fakahafua. But behind them, there are questions. Converted running back Thretton Palamo, Hunter Dimick and junior-college transfer Niasi Leota figure to be in the mix. But like the offensive-line spots, nothing is written in ink. Junior Salt and Tenny Palepoi could also see time in the rotation.

Weekend scrimmage recap

April, 9, 2012
4/09/12
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Catching you up on the spring scrimmages from over the weekend.

UTAH

There were highlights on both sides of the ball as the Utes ran 97 plays in front of more than 3,000 fans at Rice-Eccles Stadium.

Projected starting quarterback Jordan Wynn completed 11 of 27 passes for 103 and two touchdowns. Wide receiver Dres Anderson caught seven balls for 96 yards, which included a 22-yard touchdown reception. A lot of the veterans on both sides sat out to yield time to the younger players. In the absence of running back John White IV, Harvey Langi rushed nine times for 42 yards -- earning praise from head coach Kyle Whittingham.

"He's starting to play the way that we envisioned he would when we recruited him," Whittingham said. "... He really did some good things."

The defense also had its share of highlights. They managed five sacks -- despite defensive lineman Star Lotulelei and linebacker Trevor Reilly sitting out. Joe Kruger tallied three sacks and Joape Pela notched a sack and a pair of tackles for a loss. Cornerback Keith McGill returned an interception 35 yards for a touchdown.

"It wasn't perfect by any stretch of the imagination," said new offensive coordinator Brian Johnson. "But I thought we did a nice job moving the ball and guys showed up ready to play. Still got some work to do these last two weeks, but I think we've been doing a nice job so far."

Whittingham added that he thought the "flow" and "tempo" of the play calling was much better from the quarterbacks and Johnson.

WASHINGTON STATE

The defense recorded 12 sacks -- though a sack was granted when a defender could "grab" the quarterback. Still, defensive end Logan Mayes was able to get his hand on the quarterback four times and defensive tackle Xavier Cooper got there three times.

Quarterback Jeff Tuel settled in and completed 19 of 33 passes for 253 yards, two touchdowns and an interception -- one of four turnovers created during the 110-play session held in front of a couple of hundred fans at Martin Stadium.

"I feel real comfortable like I'm really starting to get a grasp of the plays," Tuel told reporters after the session. "That's really what it is. Once you get it mentally, you start playing physically and not thinking about things. That's one of the things coach [Mike] Leach harps on is being hesitant. You really have to let it go."

All six scores came through the air with Gino Simone catching seven balls for 101 yards and a score. Bobby Ratliff and Andrei Lintz also caught five balls apiece and touchdowns, followed by scores from Isiah Myers and Rahmel Dockery.

Quarterback Cody Clements also threw a pair of touchdowns on 8-of-12 passing with an interception and David Gilbertson completed 15 of 26 balls for 192 yards and a score.

USC

The banged-up Trojans held a non-tackling scrimmage on Saturday. Garry Paskwietz and Erik McKinney from WeAreSC break down what they saw from USC -- specifically running back Buck Allen getting his reps now that Tre Madden is gone for the year. Allen has been hampered by a hamstring injury.

"Today gave me confidence," Allen told USC's blog. "A teammate went down, so I knew I had to step up. I could have taken the day off, but I didn't."

Head coach Lane Kiffin talked about Madden's injury and said he thinks he'll come back as a "great player." He also said that Madden's switch from linebacker to running back is permanent.

"Extremely disappointing," Kiffin said of losing Madden. "Probably one of the most valuable guys on our team as of last week because we have a lot of great players, but sometimes we have guys that are similar to them. We don't have anybody like him, nor do we have anybody coming in really like him.

"To have a big guy that could run a 4.5 electronic, with his hands, it was really unique and it was a great experiment. Unfortunately he won't be here this year for us."

In other injury news, wide receiver De'Von Flournoy suffered a high ankle sprain.

Wynn looks good in Utah scrimmage

August, 11, 2011
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Maybe Jordan Wynn's shoulder is OK after all.

Wynn, who didn't throw Wednesday after seeing only limited action the previous two days, completed 9-of-17 passes for 152 yards and a 26-yard touchdown in a 90-play scrimmage Thursday. He was not intercepted.

Wynn is coming back from shoulder surgery, so this was his first full-go work since last November.

"It was great to have Jordan (Wynn) back," coach Kyle Whittingham said in a quote provided by the school. "He engineered two or three really nice drives. John White did a really nice job running the ball.”

White, a JC transfer, led all rushers with 12 carries for 47 yards, as the competition at tailback with Harvey Langi and Thretton Palamo continues. Langi rushed for just 10 yards on seven carries, while Palamo had eight carries for 21 yards. Fourth option Tauni Vakapuna provided the long run of the day at 31 yards.

While the scrimmage showed that Wynn's shoulder is progressing, it also seemed to show how much the Utes need him to be healthy. Backup quarterback Jon Hays tossed three interceptions, two of which were returned for touchdowns, completing 4 of 12 passes, while Tyler Shreve was 0 for 2 on the day.
The Pac-12 features another strong crop of running backs -- five returning 1,000-yard rushers -- but there are also a few teams facing uncertainty at the position.

So how does it stack up?

Great shape

    [+] EnlargeLaMichael James
    Jonathan Ferrey/Getty ImagesLaMichael James leads a talented running back corps that has both experience and depth.
  • Oregon: It's not just that the Ducks have Heisman Trophy finalist and unanimous All-American LaMichael James coming back, it's that they have Kenjon Barner and Lache Seastrunk to help carry the load. When you toss in touted incoming freshman De’Anthony Thomas -- play or redshirt? -- Oregon may have the best backfield in the nation.
  • Washington: Chris Polk is a workhorse who gained 1,415 yards last season -- he's also a good receiver -- and there's good depth with Jesse Callier and Deontae Cooper, who sat out last year with a knee injury.
  • Stanford: Stepfan Taylor lead the way with 1,137 yards and 15 touchdowns in 2010, but the depth is phenomenal with Anthony Wilkerson, Tyler Gaffney and Jeremy Stewart.
  • UCLA: Not unlike Stanford, there's a returning 1,000-yard rusher -- Johnathan Franklin -- and great depth: Derrick Coleman, Malcolm Jones and Jordan James.
  • Colorado: Rodney Stewart, at 5-foot-6, 175 pounds, is a diminutive workhorse. He rushed for 1,318 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2010. The only issue here is depth, though redshirt freshman Tony Jones had a nice spring.
Good shape
We'll see

  • California: Strange to see Cal down here, eh? What in the name of J.J., Marshawn, Jahvid and Vereen is going on? Isi Sofele is No. 1 on the post-spring depth chart, but it's wide open after that, with incoming freshmen expected to be immediately in the mix.
  • Oregon State: The Beavers have experience with Ryan McCants, but he's struggled to break through. Sophomore Jovan Stevenson, redshirt freshman Malcolm Marable and grayshirt freshman Terron Ward are options, as is Jordan Jenkins, who missed spring with a shoulder injury.
  • Utah: The Utes lost their top three backs from 2010, and their top three backs heading into 2011 have no experience. But John White, Harvey Langi and Thretton Palamo showed plenty of promise this spring. It's just we don't know what they'll do when the lights go on in Pac-12 play.
  • Washington State: Logwone Mitz and Carl Winston are back -- they combined for 353 yards in 2010 -- and hopes are high for Ricky Galvin, who was injured early in the Cougars opening game last fall. But this is not a position of strength for the Cougars.
Previous reviews

Quarterback
ESPN.com's Bruce Feldman has ranked the top-10 "impact true freshmen," Insider and USC receiver George Farmer ranks third. Here's what Feldman wrote about Farmer:
3. George Farmer, WR, USC Trojans:

If, as many Trojans insiders insist, Farmer is even more talented than his buddy Robert Woods, Matt Barkley is going to have a startling array of firepower to work with (don't forget about former blue-chip WR Kyle Prater, who redshirted in 2010). Farmer has blazing speed, and at 6-foot-2, 205 he has a very strong, sturdy frame to go with it. With him in the lineup, defenses will be seriously tested, having to cope with Farmer's speed and Woods' explosiveness at the same time.

Woods was dominant this spring, but many expect Farmer to be Woods' equal this fall. We'll see. If so, Barkley and the Trojans might not need much of a running game with their patchwork offensive line. What about the other 11 Pac-12 teams? Who is the most likely impact freshman for each? Because of our "heck yeah!" attitude, we've decided to take a stab at this query. Understand that it's not just about highly rated, it's about who might help immediately.

Arizona: The Wildcats signed three touted linebackers, but we're tapping Rob Hankins as the one who will make the most impact -- and by impact, we mean start. While Hankins is a pure inside linebacker, the Wildcats need immediate help on the outside due to Jake Fischer's knee injury.

Arizona State: With so many returning starters, the Sun Devils won't need a true freshman to start immediately. But after the knee injury to Omar Bolden, cornerback went from a position of strength to a questionable one -- at least in terms of depth. So the best guess is Rashad Wadood will get an early opportunity to work his way into the rotation.

California: The Bears reeled in an outstanding class, particularly on defense. A number of those guys are going to play. But a need area next fall for Cal is running back, where 5-foot-7, 188-pound junior Isi Sofele is atop the depth chart. So we're tapping running back Brendon Bigelow as the impact freshman, with the caveat that he is coming back from a knee injury. If not Bigelow, then perhaps it will be Daniel Lasco.

Colorado: The Buffaloes lost two starting corners to the NFL and struggled against the pass in 2010. They need help in the secondary, and Sherrard Harrington looks like the best bet, either at cornerback or perhaps at safety.

Oregon: Colt Lyerla is going to play for Oregon next fall, likely as a hybrid tight end/H-back sort. But the Ducks are solid at tight end. They need either Devon Blackmon or Tacoi Sumler to step up as an outside receiver. We're going with Sumler who has special speed and is more polished as receiver.

Oregon State: Rusty Fernando was penciled in as a starting defensive end at the beginning of spring practices, and it appears it will remain that way. But he's a junior college transfer. So, in the interest of focusing on incoming freshmen, we're going with Terron Ward, a grayshirt freshman running back who flashed ability this spring. At least one of the three true freshmen running backs figures to get touches.

Stanford: Linebacker James Vaughters is a beast. His film will give you goose bumps. He's going to play. But in terms of need, receiver is a far more questionable position for the Cardinal this fall. So watch out for Ty Montgomery.

UCLA: A lot of UCLA fans would say quarterback Brett Hundley. He finished No. 3 on the depth chart after spring practices and, while he's the quarterback of the future, it likely would be better to redshirt him, if possible. But Kevin Prince's inability to stay healthy and Richard Brehaut's inability to be consistent might make that impossible. And the Bruins recruiting class doesn't include any other obvious impact guys for this fall.

Utah: This one is easy -- running back Harvey Langi was No. 2 on the post-spring depth chart behind John White, and that competition is ongoing. Langi is going to get plenty of carries.

Washington: Another easy one -- Austin Seferian-Jenkins finished spring as a push with Michael Hartvigson as the Huskies starting tight end. Nothing suggested that he won't live up to the considerable hype he received during recruiting.

Washington State: Outside linebacker Logan Mayes has great Cougar bloodlines; he's the son of former Washington State All-American running back Rueben Mayes. He has the athletic ability and football smarts to work his way into the mix immediately, mostly likely at strong side linebacker.

Spring concludes: Utah

April, 15, 2011
4/15/11
1:30
PM ET
Spring game: The Red-White game will be played in Rice-Eccles Stadium at 3 p.m. ET or 1 p.m. MST. Admission is free.

What happened: The Utes had a handful of goals this spring, including installing a new offense with coordinator Norm Chow, finding a backup QB behind Jordan Wynn, figuring out a pecking order at running back and completely rebuilding the secondary. Based on the scrimmages, the defense is ahead of the offense in achieving those goals. With Wynn sitting out after shoulder surgery, neither Tyler Shreve nor Griff Robles was able to consistently assert himself, so it's possible that new JC transfer Jon Hays could get into the picture this fall. It didn't help that a couple of key players were banged up on the offensive line. Things were encouraging on defense, where a number of youngsters stepped up to fill voids on the line and in the secondary.

What's ahead: The big question in preseason camp will be getting Wynn up to speed with Chow's offense, then figuring out who the backup will be. Former rugby star Thretton Palamo was the surprise star of the running back competition, but that competition is on-going with John White and Harvey Langi. All three figure to get plenty of touches. A number of players who missed much or all of the spring with injuries will re-entering competitions in August. Pecking orders don't seem firm at defensive end and in the secondary just yet.

Spring stars: Palamo, at 6-foot-2, 237 pounds, is intriguing because of his raw mix of size and speed. Sophomore DE Joe Kruger was a consistent presence on the edge. Redshirt freshman receiver Dres Anderson moved past junior Reggie Dunn on the two-deep. Terrell Reese, Michael Walker, Tyrone Morris-Edwards and Damian Payne have eased concerns at safety. Junior cornerback Ryan Lacy had a nice spring. When healthy, John Cullen and Tony Bergstrom give the Utes a strong combo at OT.

Notes: Players who won't play in the spring game for precautionary reasons or injuries include Jordan Wynn, Star Lotulelei, Joape Pela, Matt Martinez, Vyncent Jones, J.J. Williams, Sam Brenner, Greg Bird, Tony Bergstrom, James Aiono, DeVonte Christopher, Lei Talamaivao, Chaz Walker, Kendrick Moeai, Ryan Lacy, Dallin Rogers and John Cullen, among others. Others such as Brian Blechen, Conroy Black, Joe Kruger and Derrick Shelby will play only in the first half.

Utah notes: Wynn getting healthy

March, 28, 2011
3/28/11
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SALT LAKE CITY -- Utah quarterback Jordan Wynn, who had shoulder surgery in December, will start throwing next week, coach Kyle Whittingham said.

Wynn will toss only short throws with a trainer and won't practice with the Utes this spring, but Whittingham said that Wynn's rehabilitation is "very much on schedule, if not ahead of schedule."

With Wynn out, sophomore Griff Robles and true freshman Tyler Shreve (a grayshirt) have been getting all the work with the first-team offense as they compete to back up Wynn in 2011. In just five practices, Shreve has shown enough that he's squarely in the hunt.

"He's progressed," Whittingham said. "He's a kid who has a strong arm. He sat out last season so he's a little rusty."

Some more notes:
  • Whittingham on the move of Brian Blechen from safety to linebacker: "It's very obvious that's where he belongs."
  • The running back competition is down to three guys: John White, Harvey Langi and Thretton Palamo. Luke Matthews had been listed as a running back but Whittingham said he's become more of a "slash" player: a receiver/running back.
  • In fact, it appears new offensive coordinator Norm Chow is bringing the "F-back" hybrid position to Utah. In the latest depth chart, Matthews and tight end Jake Murphy were listed as "fullbacks." In the previous depth chart, receiver Mo Lee also was listed there.
  • Boo Anderson has moved back to linebacker after starting spring as a fullback.
  • Whittingham seemed to be feeling pretty good about his front seven, particularly defensive tackles Star Lotulelei -- Whittingham said he's "the anchor of the defensive line" -- and James Aiono.
  • When asked for some standout redshirt freshmen so far this spring, Whittingham listed Murphy, receivers Dres Anderson and Kenneth Scott, linebackers V.J.Fehoko and Jacoby Hale, and safety Terrell Reese.

Will have more after practice.

Utah gears up for spring practice

March, 4, 2011
3/04/11
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Utah will practice as a Pac-12 team for the first time Tuesday when spring drills begin, but that doesn't mean coach Kyle Whittingham is already eyeballing his new conference foes.

"It's all about us," he said.

The Utes have plenty on their plate. The secondary needs to be rebuilt, the two leading rushers from 2010 are gone and there are voids on the offensive and defensive line. Not only that, they will be breaking in a new offense under coordinator Norm Chow, which will have a more "West Coast" look and less of the spread that arrived with Urban Meyer in 2003.

"We brought Norm in with the intention of incorporating a lot of the West Coast principles into our offense," Whittingham said. "That's the direction we are headed. We have not completely scrapped the spread, but you'll see a lot more under-center stuff, more downhill run game, good play-action pass package off of that run game. We have some definitive ideas of the direction we are headed."

With starting quarterback Jordan Wynn sitting out after shoulder surgery, a lot of the focus will be on that downhill running game after the loss of Matt Asiata, Eddie Wide and Sausan Shakerin. Harvey Langi and John White IV are early-enrollees who will have the inside track at tailback, while Boo Anderson has moved from linebacker to fullback.

As previously noted, linebacker J.J. Williams, safety Greg Bird and tight end Dallin Rogers also are sitting out due to injuries.

Here are some notes from Whittingham. (Note: If your favorite backup from last fall is not listed, it doesn't mean he's not in the mix.)
  • Position changes: Besides Anderson to fullback, Tevita Stevens moves from starting right guard to No. 1 center; Luke Matthews switches from receiver to running back; David Kruger moves from DT to DE opposite Derrick Shelby; and Brian Blechen moves from strong safety to strongside linebacker (stud).
  • Redshirt freshmen to watch: Receivers Dres Anderson, Kenneth Scott and Terrell Reese; tight end Jake Murphy; linebackers V.J. Fehoko and Jacoby Hale; and safety Damian Payne.
  • Quarterback: With Wynn out, the Utes have only two scholarship quarterbacks. Sophomore Griff Robles will take snaps with the first team, while incoming freshman Tyler Shreve, who grayshirted in 2010, will be No. 2.
  • Offensive line: Both tackles are back but, with Stevens moving to center, there are openings at both guard spots. Jeremiah Tofaeono and Sam Brenner will get the first look.
  • Receiver: While leading receiver Jereme Brooks and Shaky Smithson are gone, and Matthews switched positions, Whittingham didn't seem concerned: "That's one of our deepest positions," he said. No. 2 receiver DeVonte Christopher is back, and Whittingham listed Reggie Dunn, Mo Lee and Sean Fitzgerald as players -- along with the redshirt freshmen, Anderson, Scott and Reese -- that he feels will be in the mix. The 2011 recruiting class also was strong at receiver.
  • Defensive line: Kruger's move outside means there are two open spots at tackle. One spot will be filled by Star Lotulelei. Said Whittingham, "We really are high on Star Lotulelei, who played a lot of football for us last year." Former JC super-recruit James Aiono, Tavita Finau and L.T. Tuipulotu also are in the mix. Kruger's younger brother, Joe, a redshirt freshman, will get a look at end, too.
  • Linebacker: Matt Martinez and Chaz Walker are back, and Blechen wasn't moved to be a backup. Fehoko and Hale are promising prospects, and Whittingham said Victor Spikes, who moved to LB from safety last year, is getting more comfortable with the position. When healthy, J.J. Williams will be in the picture. Nai Fotu, a starter heading into last spring who missed 2010 with a knee injury, is suspended indefinitely but could return to the team.
  • Cornerback: Both corners must be replaced, and Conroy Black figures to win one spot. Ryan Lacy and Reggie Topps are next in the pecking order, with Jamal Smith, Wykie Freeman, Mike Honeycutt, Joe Smith also possibilities.
  • Safety: Whittingham said safety is "a wide-open competition" that he expects to last into the fall when the incoming freshman arrive; they will have an opportunity to earn immediate playing time. He mentioned Payne and Michael Walker as youngsters who could raise some eyebrows. Senior Greg Bird and sophomore Quade Chappuis were the backups in 2010.
  • Kicker: Nick Marsh, who handled kickoffs last fall, is likely to handle all kicking duties.

Notes: Clowney to Oregon? Top JC back to Utah?

February, 7, 2011
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Couple of good notes that might answer your questions. First, lots of folks have emailed asking if Zeus swaggered down from Olympus -- lightning bolts in hand! -- and visited Oregon last weekend. And by "Zeus" of course you know we mean defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, the No. 1 recruit in all the land.

The long answer is no. Per Jamie Newberg:
There were rumors that he was making an official visit to Oregon over the weekend, but the fact he was at both of his basketball games Friday and Saturday ended that talk. But expect more talk and speculation about Clowney's future right up until he steps up to the microphone and makes his announcement.

Clowney is picking between Clemson, South Carolina and Alabama on Feb. 14, his 18th birthday.
Keeping with a recruiting focus, ESPN.com's Bruce Feldman asks himself which junior college imports could have the biggest impact on the 2011 season? You might recall that a couple of JC transfers helped Auburn a bit this past season. Feldman ranks eight, and Utah fans concerned about losing Matt Asiata and Eddie Wide will be glad to know John White ranked eighth on his list. Writes Feldman:

The Utes lost two very good runners, but the 5-foot-9, 190-pound back should be a good complement to highly regarded power runner Harvey Langi. "He is an SEC-type talent," says one coach who tried to recruit White.

Sure all of you will love that "SEC-type" talent quip.

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