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Utah will play the remainder of the season without junior linebacker Gionni Paul, head coach Kyle Whittingham announced after Wednesday's practice.
Paul broke his foot in spring ball and returned spectacularly against Michigan to make 14 tackles and record his first of four interceptions as a Ute. He quickly became a fan favorite for his play and his enthusiasm.
But he won't be back until 2015.
"We had a setback, and he's got a problem with his foot," Whittingham said. "Had surgery today."
Junior linebacker Jason Whittingham who was injured against Fresno State and has not played since will be available against Arizona, as will senior linebacker Jacoby Hale, who missed the trip to Stanford.
Still, Paul's loss is a blow. Even while it appeared he felt lingering pain in his foot, and despite breaking his hand picking off Oregon State quarterback Sean Mannion, he totaled 61 tackles and three tackles for a loss in eight games.
"He was huge in our success this season," said senior safety Brian Blechen. "The way he came back so fast from his injury, played through pain, made plays when he was out there and just having his football smarts, along with Jared [Norris], I've seen them bring along other guys."
Whittingham was Utah's second-leading tackle as a sophomore, and Hale was second on the Utes in sacks last season, but tore his ACL in spring and has played sparingly.
Whittingham believes Paul's foot will fully recover after surgery. Says Blechen:
"I'm really happy that he's getting healed up, and he's got another season left, so you haven't seen the last of Gionni Paul."
Safeties step up • Tuesday, safeties coach Morgan Scalley talked about the injury to senior Tevin Carter and praised his true freshmen, Marcus Williams and Andre Godfrey, for how they've handled their baptisms by fire.
Godfrey has been hobbled by a high ankle sprain he sustained in fall camp, and of late, Williams has been the undisputed starter (particularly since it was announced last week that Carter will miss the rest of the season and apply for a medical redshirt).
Williams needs to gain weight so that on tackles, "he's a striker, rather than a catcher," Scalley said, "but very pleased and proud of the way he's performed."
Eric Rowe was a similar weight as a freshman, Scalley said, although Rowe was more of a "striker." Williams is taking good angles and ultimately making most tackles, he said.
Williams has 48 tackles, an interception and two forced fumbles this season, while Godfrey has seven tackles and half a sack.
Should he add the needed weight, "he's the prototypical post player that you want back there," Scalley said.