Utah safety Brian Blechen, who has been suspended for the first three games of the season after breaking team rules, suffered a different kind of punishment Thursday as he faced a throng of media members following Utah's practice.
Blechen, an honorable mention All-Pac 12 player as a sophomore, was apologetic and said he understood why he must serve a three-game suspension. "I hurt the team and I have to be accountable," he said. "What happened is in the past, and I'm ready to make the team better and get the season rolling. It's definitely going to be hard not to be out there, but I'll be cheering the guys on."
Blechen said he spoke to the team and promised them he wouldn't make another mistake.
"Any time someone gets in trouble and hurts the team, you'd have to be crazy to do it again," he said.
Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said Blechen would get reps with the first team as well as the scout team. Even without Blechen, Whittingham said he felt confident in his safeties.
"Quade Chappuis played a lot of football for us, and Eric Rowe is miles ahead of where he was last year, and Travis Still, who moved from wide receiver to safety in the offseason, looks good, so we have a lot of bodies there. I think we'll be Ok."
Freshman quarterback Chase Hansen didn't participate due to a sore throwing shoulder, which could keep him out of practice for several days in a best-case scenario.
Whittingham said he should know more about Hansen's status by Saturday or Monday.
"We'll have to see how it unfolds," Whittingham said. "He does have a redshirt year available, so we'll have to see what the best course of action is."
The former Lone Peak star will go on an LDS Church mission in January.
Even if he doesn't participate this year, the Utes have a solid group of quarterbacks with Jordan Wynn and Jon Hays returning and newcomer Travis Wilson looking strong. The fourth backup is Adam Schulz, a freshman out of Muskego, Wis.
Also missing from practice was sophomore Nate Fakahafua, the projected starter at left end, who is taking care of some family issues, according to Whittingham. He is expected to join the team Monday.
Defensive back Reggie Topps, who was suspended indefinitely last April for violating team rules, has been cleared to participate in practices but hasn't been cleared by Whittingham to participate in games.
Junior college transfer running back James Poole joined the team Thursday and will compete for a backup role along with Kelvin York, Lucky Radley and Jarrell Oliver.