Kyle Whittingham says Utah is dealing with unprecedented injury issues
Kyle Whittingham estimates the Utes have 15 or 16 players standing on the sideline on gameday who, if they were healthy, would make the team better.
And he thinks Utah lost a couple more guys for at least the next week in Saturday’s 31-7 win over Weber State.
Utah opens Pac-12 play next Saturday, Sept. 23, against No. 24 UCLA at home. The Bruins wrapped up their nonconference slate on Saturday with a 59-7 victory over North Carolina Central. In the first quarter, UCLA scored 35 points and averaged 21.5 yards per play.
The Utes get to stay at home for the game — with Rice-Eccles one of the toughest places to play in all of college football — but they’ll be in trouble if their injury issues persist.
“(Get) our starting tackles back, Connor O’Toole back. JT Broughton didn’t play today. We’ve got to get all our guys intact,” Whittingham said. “That’s what we’re hoping for this week, is to get a good chunk of those guys that are missing back. That’s the most important thing that could happen to make us better.”
Utah continued to be without quarterback Cameron Rising. Nate Johnson started in his place and Whittingham thought he played well.
Utah was also without tight end Brant Kuithe, wideouts Devaughn Vele and Mycah Pittman, offensive lineman Johnny Maea, kicker Cole Becker, and defensive linemen Junior Tafuna and Simote Pepa. All of them would start if healthy.
“We have to start getting them back, and we lost some more today,” Whittingham said. “I’ve been coaching 40 years and I’ve never seen anything like this in that department.”
Asked if the guys waiting to make their debuts — players like Rising and Kuithe — are hopeful to see the field next Saturday, Whittingham said they’ve been hopeful “for several weeks now” but the decision on their availability remains outside of the coaching staff’s hands.
“Bottom line, we did what we were supposed to do today,” Whittingham said. “We have to continue to get better to have a chance to get where we want to get.”
More than anything, that means getting healthy.