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Friday, August 17, 2007

Foot fancy: Asiata' sprain has Ute coaches looking for starter

By Mike Sorensen
Deseret Morning News
Published: August 17, 2007
Less than two weeks until the opening game of the Utah football season, the battle for starting running back is "wide open," according to coach Kyle Whittingham. Any one of four backs could be in the backfield when the Utes kick off against Oregon State the night of Aug. 30.

"There's not much separation," Whittingham said. "We're still sorting it out."

After a running-back-by-committee a year ago when the four main running backs didn't even combine for 1,000 yards, the Utes thought they solved their problem by signing Snow College All-American Matt Asiata.

However, on the fourth day of fall camp, Asiata suffered a foot sprain and has sat out for 10 days.

The former Hunter High star is finally out of the boot he wore for a week and is expected to resume practicing Monday. But Whittingham is being cautious, not wanting to bring him back too fast and set him back even longer. He said if Asiata starts practicing Monday, he should be ready to go for the Oregon State game 10 days later.

"We're anxiously awaiting getting Matt back," said Whittingham.

While Whittingham hasn't handed the job to Asiata, it is believed that if he's healthy, he'll be the man in the backfield for the Utes.

Asiata is a back in the mold of former Utes Quinton Ganther or Mike Anderson — a large (235 pounds) bruising back with speed who can block. Last year at Snow, he averaged 135.8 yards per game with 15 touchdowns.

"He's a smart guy who works hard and picks things up fast," said running backs coach Dave Schramm. "On paper, in the meeting room and on the field he tells me what he's supposed to do. Obviously he's got to get out there and show us what he can do."

"Had Matt been practicing we might have had a chance to sort this thing out," said Whittingham. "He was looking very good before he got hurt."

With Asiata's status questionable, three returning players are battling for the top spot.

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