Utah football: Freshmen digging the competition
Utah notes • Coaches laud Wynn's backups, a Californian and ex-Lone Peak star.
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Returning quarterback Jordan Wynn isn't the only player eager to show off his skills at the position.

The battle for the backup spot is on with Travis Wilson, a 6-foot-6, 204-pound freshman out of San Clemente, Calif., and Chase Hansen, a 6-3, 212-pound product out of Lone Peak High School, leading the way.

The Utes also have senior Jon Hays in camp. However, the Utes know his skill set well since he was the starter after Wynn suffered his season-ending shoulder injury, so the freshmen are getting much of the coaches' scrutiny.

So far, they like what they see, with coach Kyle Whittingham believing the quarterback spot has evolved from one of weakness to one with plenty of depth.

"Getting Jordan back was one of the most important things," he said. "But Chase and Travis are impressive. They've both picked things up quickly."

Hansen said he wasn't intimidated by the competition and relishes the chance to show he can compete with a seasoned quarterback such as Wynn and a highly touted recruit in Wilson.

"That's what football is all about," he said.

Utah offensive coordinator Brian Johnson said Wynn might be the No. 1 guy, but as last year proved, the backups always have to be ready to play in case of injury, and he expects both rookies to have that attitude.

"It's a dynamic group, and they need to compete every day," he said. "They are super-talented freshmen, and we are going to see how it all shakes out for them."

Early stars

The Utes already have had some players emerging as standouts for the defense. It's no surprise who they are, either, given their history. Brothers Joe Kruger and Dave Kruger have returned as bigger versions of themselves while sophomore defensive end Nate Fakahafua continues to draw praise.

Additionally, defensive lineman Star Lotulelei, whom the Utes already are promoting as the top defensive lineman in the Pac-12, returned in good shape, Whittingham said.

Tight at tight end

Tight end David Rolf was on crutches with a calf injury, so the Utes have moved Westlee Tonga back to tight end, temporarily putting the plans of using him at defensive end on hold.

"We're so thin at tight end we have to have him there," Whittingham said. "But we really feel his future is going to be at defensive end."

Returning tight ends Dallin Rogers and Kendrick Moeai are sitting out spring practice with injuries.