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They've known each other since first grade, so it's no stretch to say their friendship — and rivalry — dates back as far as they can remember.

Long before they were an Oregon running back and a Utah wideout, Tony Brooks-James and Kenric Young were two little kids sneaking away to hang with the older group after school at a Gainesville, Fla., Boys & Girls Club.

And the older kids always demanded that they race.

"That goes on to this day," Young said. "'Who's faster?' No matter what."

In 11th grade, they were chastised for "disrupting school," Young said, when they decided to settle the argument on a dirt road behind Gainesville High.

By running, that is.

"The Pac-12 boys," as they're known back home, still talk "almost every day," Brooks-James said, be it through text, talking on the phone or FaceTime.

Monday night, both said the other's team was in big trouble Saturday, but that if anybody was going to score against their team, they hoped it would be their friend.

They've been split before, attending separate middle schools and high schools until Brooks-James transferred to Gainesville as a junior, and they went 23-4 together the next two seasons.

As seniors, in 2013, Brooks-James ran for 1,242 yards and nine touchdowns and was courted by the likes of Auburn, Florida — you name it. Young played both sides of the ball and had 22 catches for 450 yards and six touchdowns, as well as 37 tackles and four pass breakups.

They went on unofficial visits together to Western Michigan and South Florida, and Young called Brooks-James during his visit to Salt Lake City to tell him Utah coaches had an offer for him.

"But Oregon is his dream school," Young said. "That's what he's been talking about ever since the beginning of the 10th grade."

Thomas Tyner's shoulder surgery moved Brooks-James into the fold this August, and he's carried 21 times for 133 yards and two touchdowns.

When Brooks-James scored against Eastern Washington, Young said he was "blowing up his phone" — even as the game was still ongoing.

Young, meanwhile, has just one reception for three yards, but he appeared on this week's depth chart as backup to senior Kenneth Scott.

"You've got to work hard and you've got to get results, and Kenric's been doing that the last couple weeks," said coach Kyle Whittingham on Tuesday.

No doubt, Young is louder the Brooks-James, who describes himself as a "silent assassin."

Young said Brooks-James can be riled up, though, and he prides himself on "getting in his head ... making him get out of character."

Told Young's trash talk can be pretty funny at times, Brooks-James said, "He thinks he's funny."

But never mind louder — who's faster?

There, they hedge.

It's Brooks-James in the 100. Young in the 200.

Barton brink

Redshirt freshman Jackson Barton played in about 30 snaps at left tackle against Fresno State, Whittingham said, or about "every third rep."

Junior Sam Tevi remains the starter after winning the battle in fall camp, Whittingham said, "but Jackson is a close enough No. 2 that he deserves to play, and he's progressed so much in even the last couple of weeks that he's earned the right to be on the field."

Whitt ties Mac

Utah's win over the Bulldogs gave Whittingham 88 wins as Utah's head coach — as many as the man who hired him in 1994.

Now 88-43, Whittingham tied Ron McBride (88-63 from 1990 to 2002), although he has a ways to go before he catches all-time leader Ike Armstrong, at 141.

Whittingham said Tuesday that he'll "forever be indebted" to McBride.

"Every coach has got to have a break along the way, or two, and Coach Mac gave me my break."

Twitter: @matthew_piper