Utah Football: Coach keeping quiet about injuries

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It's getting close to game time, so coach Kyle Whittingham is starting to get a little more careful about how much information he dispenses about his Utah Utes.

For example?

Injury updates are out.

“No real detailed injury report,” Whittingham said Thursday after practice. “I don't want to get into that, being this close to the game. We're doing all right. We still got some guys we have to get back.”

Running back Darryl Poston would appear to be among the most crucial, with just eight days remaining until the Utes open the season against UCLA in the Rose Bowl. The injury-plagued senior who the Utes hope will be their featured tailback has been out since late last week, nursing a sore hamstring.

Meanwhile, starting linebacker Kyle Brady continues to recover from a sprained knee, though starting middle linebacker Joe Jiannoni seems to have been practicing more as he returns from a nagging foot injury. Backup safety John Peel is back at practice, but works out only on the side while he recovers from a shoulder injury suffered in a nasty collision early in training camp.

Safety Eric Weddle said the Utes aren't worried about their overall health, in any case. He said he expected both Brady and Jiannoni, at least, to play against the Bruins.

“They'll be there and fight through it,” he said.

The Utes are 4 1/2 -point underdogs against the storied Bruins, but have had tremendous success against teams from the Pac-10 Conference in recent years.

The Utes have won four straight and five of the last six meetings with such teams, though they have not played the Bruins since 1974. They haven't beaten the Bruins, either, in seven meetings all-time.

Kicking game

Sophomore Louie Sakoda has locked up the placekicking and punting jobs for the Utes - he averaged 37.1 yards per punt last year, but did not attempt a field goal or extra-point - while fellow soph Ben Vroman is the top candidate to handle the kickoffs.

Voice of the Utes

Broadcaster Bill Riley was announced as the new voice of the Utes this football season, nearly a week after KALL-AM 700 told former play-by-play man Matt Thomas that it wasn't picking up an option year on his contract.

“My plan really is to just go out and do the best possible job I can do to represent the radio station and the University of Utah this fall,” Riley said. “I do look at this as a kind of pinnacle-of-the-career type of opportunity, and I'll do my best to make the people who gave me the opportunity pleased.”

Fighting to be heard

He's far from the star of even his own position group, let alone the entire defense. He might not even be a starter. But on a defense that seems to otherwise lack an especially vocal leader, senior cornerback Shaun Harper is doing his best to fill the role.

“I feel like it's just my time,” he said. “It's my last year, I need to show these guys by example and I need to lead. Maybe I kind of slacked on that the last couple of years, just for the fact that I wasn't a senior or something. But I just feel like it's my time . . . if I'm not going to say something, nobody else will.”

Harper has been an occasional starter while playing every game of the last three seasons, and he's frequently heard above all others exhorting his teammates in conditioning drills during practice. He's in phenomenal shape, for one thing, and promised to continue making a solid contribution - even if fellow senior Eric Shyne winds up with the starting job on the left side.

“You guys are going to see a new Shaun Harper this year,” he said.