Michael Brandy, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — Ranking Utah's top four running backs doesn't require more than two numbers.
As far as head coach Kyle Whittingham is concerned, Matt Asiata and Eddie Wide are No. 1 and 1-A, while Sausan Shakerin and Tauni Vakapuna are No. 2 and 2-A.
"That's kind of where we're at," Whittingham said.
It's a good problem, according to quarterback Jordan Wynn and running backs coach Aaron Alford.
"It's super nice. We've got four guys that can all come in and carry the football for big yards," Wynn said. "So it's going to make my job that much easier."
Alford has similar thoughts.
"You can never have too many great players, too many great running backs," he said. "All that does is just improve your team as a whole."
Alford called it "a dream" to have four guys working their tails off and encouraging each other to succeed.
AT LINEBACKER: The process of replacing graduated starting linebackers Stevenson Sylvester, Mike Wright and Kepa Gaison is ongoing. After Nai Fotu's season-ending injury in spring ball, the competition has grown even greater.
"Overall they're working hard. They're progressing," said Whittingham, who noted that two of the top six contenders — Jamel King (concussion) and J.J. Williams (foot) — have been on the shelf for a portion of camp.
Those who have stayed healthy, thus far, include Chad Manis, Matt Martinez, Chaz Walker and Boo Andersen.
A pair of newcomers, Jacoby Hale and V.J. Fehoko, are also in the mix. Whittingham said the freshmen are handling the steep learning curve associated with the position well.
SAFE APPROACH: Highly touted defensive lineman Latu Hemuli, who injured his foot in spring ball, is only seeing limited action in camp — for precautionary reasons.
"We want him healthy for the opener. We're doing everything we can to ensure that he's healthy," Whittingham said. "Now that may not be enough, but we're taking every precaution."
The hope is to have Hemuli on the field for at least 15-20 snaps per game.
Ute camp report
Day 9: The Utes practiced once Saturday, in the morning at the baseball field. Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said it was "a good end to the week." He added that the team got a lot of situational things taken care of and the competition was good.
Standouts: Whittingham said the practice was an "overall good effort by the entire team."
Injuries: Linebacker J.J. Williams (foot) and left tackle John Cullen (knee) did not practice Saturday. Cullen could return Monday and Williams in a week or so.
Next up: The Utes are off today. They'll resume camp Monday with a morning practice at Rice-Eccles Stadium and a late afternoon session at Ute Field.
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