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In Brian Blechen's first college game, he picked off a sideline throw from Tino Sunseri to set up the game-winning field goal against No. 15 Pitt.

He instantly became a Utah fan favorite.

But on his first college play, "I blew my assignment totally," he said Monday.

Back then, Blechen could look to then-senior Justin Taplin-Ross to set him straight. Now, true freshmen Andre Godfrey and Marcus Williams turn to Blechen.

Both have been thrust into duty by the sudden absences of hobbled senior Tevin Carter, who has two picks and 3.5 tackles for a loss in just over four games' worth of snaps.

Williams was preyed upon at times during his start against Washington State, and Godfrey's nerve was tested when he replaced Carter in the first half at the Rose Bowl.

Afterward Godfrey called his mom, Valerie Lewis, "just explaining to me how he felt being out there and having the crowd of 74,000 and how loud it was and how different it was," she said by phone Tuesday.

There's no avoiding the learning curve, Blechen said. Just as long as they're improving, it's gravy.

"They're competitors, and they're eager to learn, so it's easy to play next to them and to try to bring them up to speed," he said. "Sometimes if I want to try to dumb it down for them, they're like, 'No, I want you to do exactly what you'd do if you had a veteran playing next to you.'"

Blechen and senior cornerback Eric Rowe started at safety as Ute freshmen. So did current San Diego Chargers All-Pro Eric Weddle. But the difference this time is that if Utah had its druthers, Carter would take the field against the Beavers this Thursday.

He may not, so the next guy up appears to be Godfrey, although Williams and junior Charles Henderson are also competing for playing time.

Safeties coach Morgan Scalley hinted during fall camp — even as Godfrey wore a boot to stabilize a sprained ankle — that the Florida native was too good to redshirt.

It was clear to Blechen that Godfrey was nervous against the Bruins, but that likely wasn't apparent to a more casual viewer. He finished with four tackles and, in tandem with junior linebacker Jared Norris, brought down Brett Hundley on the UCLA goal line for a pivotal sack.

"Andre played well," said head coach Kyle Whittingham. "For a true freshman, in his first real extensive playing time, I'm very proud of him."

For Lewis, it was sheer joy to watch the culmination of her son's efforts: From age 2, when he carried a miniature football with him everywhere he went, to his junior year of high school, when he cut his own highlight videos to attract college recruiters, to stepping out onto the finely manicured grass at the Rose Bowl.

"I could live that moment over and over again," she said.

It may have taken Godfrey a while to get accustomed to the speed of Division I, he said, but he came to Utah expecting to contribute early and is used to high-pressure football.

As a senior at Miramar High, 15 miles north of Miami, Godfrey helped lead a team that was ranked as high as No. 3 in the state heading into the playoffs.

"Playing in Florida, every week, there's no let-off," Godfrey said. "... Coming to the Pac-12 is the same thing. I was kind of accustomed to it before I got here, so it helped me out a lot, being ready to play in the games."

Now, when he returns to the sidelines, he makes the rounds: First he goes to Scalley to learn what he could have done better, then Blechen and Carter.

"They're picking it up quick," Blechen said. "They're building chemistry, building trust during practice. And come Saturday, whoever's next to me, I think we'll all have gotten enough reps to where we know what each other are doing."

Utah at Oregon State

P Thursday, 8 p.m.

TV ยป Fox Sports 2, KMYU —

Andre Godfrey file

Measurables • 5-foot-10, 190 pounds

High school • Was named third-team 8A all-state at Miramar High, north of Miami, in leading it to a 12-1 record and an 8A regional finals loss.