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With little warning, Utah started true freshman Marcus Williams in centerfield Saturday —¬†and against the nation's No. 1 passing attack, no less.

A few times, the young free safety looked very much like a young free safety.

"It was a tough evening for him," said head coach Kyle Whittingham on Tuesday. "He fought hard. He never loafed. He gave it everything he's got. He just made some freshman mistakes. He's going to be a good player in time."

The good news for Utah — now facing a team that passes for more than 300 yards per game and a quarterback who averages more than 10 yards per attempt — is that they again appear to have some time.

Whittingham said Tuesday that junior Charles Henderson and freshman Andre Godfrey are both available after missing time due to injury.

Of senior transfer Tevin Carter, who was impressive in three games before missing Saturday's 28-27 loss for undisclosed reasons, Whittingham said, "I'm going to be optimistic and say he's going to be available."

Kicking to Kaelin • Utah's SportsCenter Top Plays per capita are astronomical.

Most of that is due to one guy.

But UCLA head coach Jim Mora doesn't plan to avoid Kaelin Clay. "We kick off to whoever," he said on Tuesday's Pac-12 conference call.

Does that make Clay happy?

"In a sense, yeah it does, but I still have to go out there and execute, and we have to have 11 guys on the field execute the schemes," Clay said. "If we execute it right, hopefully we get another one in the end zone."

Clay — careful to use the term "we" when talking about the return units — has three punt return touchdowns and one kickoff return touchdown. His latest, a 58-yard punt return against Washington State, tied him for the most by a Ute in a season with Baltimore Ravens wideout Steve Smith. But he doesn't feel high and mighty, he said.

In fact, whether or not anybody kicks to him, he's still kicking himself for a fumble that gave Washington State the ball early in the third quarter with the Utes leading 24-7.

"I felt that was really crucial."

No passing fad • Dave Christensen is not going to make wholesale changes to his offense, and he doesn't need to, said quarterbacks coach Aaron Roderick on Tuesday.

"You can't freak out and change everything you're doing," Roderick said. "It's the middle of the season."

Following up on an earlier comment that backup quarterback Kendal Thompson should have received more playing time, Whittingham told reporters that Travis Wilson remains the starting quarterback. Coaches merely felt Thompson should have had a chance to jumpstart the offense when it stalled in the second half.

"Drops, right in our hands, and wide-open routes that we missed — there were a lot of things, a lot of plays there to be made, that we typically do make, that we didn't make," Whittingham said, adding that senior captain Dres Anderson, who went catchless for the first time since midway through the 2012 season, will have ample opportunity to redeem late drops.

All hail Hale • Dressed and practicing in individual drills Tuesday was senior linebacker Jacoby Hale, who was lost to an ACL injury in spring camp.

With junior Jason Whittingham reportedly missing up to two months with a wrist injury, Utah would certainly welcome the return of Hale to the linebacking corps. As of right now, when they go to three linebackers, defensive end Nate Orchard joins Gionni Paul and Jared Norris. Hale's return could free up Orchard to play on the line and give the Utes another pass-rushing threat in the front seven.

Of Hale's status, Whittingham said: "Not ready yet, but he's progressing."

Twitter: @matthew_piper —

Utah at UCLA

O Saturday, 8:30 p.m.