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Generally, when a player transfers with one year of eligibility remaining, he needs a little luck to make an impact on his new team.

Ahmad Christian got none.

In just the second week of Utah's winter conditioning, Christian was running sprints when he felt his Achilles tendon "pop."

The former South Carolina corner tried to take another step, he said, but his foot wasn't having it. There went his final spring ball, his final summer conditioning, his final fall camp and the first third of his final season.

About three weeks ago, finally, he was able to practice again.

Christian suited up but sat out as the Utes rolled in Eugene and estimates that he's up to about 85 to 90 percent of his natural abilities.

"I've been making some plays," he said. "Sometimes, you can tell that it's bothering me. But it'll take time to get back to 100 percent."

Christian's decision to transfer was a big news at the time — a former SEC up-and-comer at a position of apparent need for the Utes. After redshirting in 2011, he played in 24 games as a freshman and sophomore for the Gamecocks, totaling 26 tackles and four pass breakups.

But he and coaches didn't see eye-to-eye, "and some things just weren't working out," he said, so the former Milwaukee Brewers draft pick left to play baseball at Seminole State College before connecting with then-Utah coordinator Kalani Sitake.

The camaraderie Sitake told him about was no joke, he said.

"South Carolina, not to badmouth them, but we didn't have a family-type team," he said. "I know everybody's name on this team, speak to everybody every day, it's just a different atmosphere."

Christian lined up at nickel for South Carolina as a freshman and outside as a sophomore, and Kyle Whittingham previously said he thought Christian would return to nickel at the U. Since the injury, though, Christian said the decision was made to keep him on the outside.

Long after he'd hoped to, he's anxious to start making the most of his final chance.

"Some days I come out and my Achilles is not feeling well," he said, "but I know people are ready to see me play, so I've got to go 100 percent."

Field facts

The installation of Utah's new field was completed by a crew of 10 in 17 days, according to FieldTurf regional manager Jed Easterbrook.

That time frame included three rainouts and one day when Rice-Eccles was in use. So, to remove the old field, recycle it and install a new field, they required 13 working days.

The sand/rubber/cork infill unique to FieldTurf's "CoolPlay" system — which the company says can keep a field up to 35 degrees cooler than a field with a top layer of rubber infill — weighed about 900,000 pounds, Easterbrook said.

The grass fibers that appear to be about an inch long are actually more like 2.5 inches, with the infill poured between the blades. The crew loaded approximately 40 semi-trucks between the old turf and the new.

And it was completed early enough not only to host Cal, but to be practiced on two or three times first.

Monday, it got a rave review from senior running back Devontae Booker, who feels it's much softer than the stuff they trucked out.

"Every time I run it feels like it's cushioning," Booker said. "The last turf we ran on, it felt really hard, like I was running on the ground. It's definitely a good look for us, and I'm excited to play on it."

Bye blues

Whittingham gave his players the week off last week, but gassers at the end of Monday's practice served as a reminder that the break's over.

Whittingham said on Tuesday's Pac-12 media teleconference that he'd prefer not to have any bye weeks, but if he must, he's grateful to get one at this time of the year, which is midseason when you factor in fall camp.

Defensive coordinator John Pease said it might take a little while to get back into the routine of hitting people.

"They get a nice week off, and they've been with their girlfriend and they've been watching some movies and having some popcorn," Pease said. "It's not exactly like scrimmaging. … Well, it depends who your girlfriend is."

Twitter: @matthew_piper