SALT LAKE CITY — As the man in the middle of Utah's defense, linebacker Chaz Walker is surrounded by several new faces this spring.
The coaching staff is auditioning new starters at both cornerback and safety spots. They're also working Brian Blechen into his new role at stud linebacker and filling the void left by former captain Sealver Siliga's decision to give up his senior year for a shot at the NFL.
After leading the Utes with 113 tackles last season, Walker is well aware of what's going on around him. And with spring ball about to enter its final week, the senior-to-be likes what he's seeing
"They're doing good," Walker said. "They're picking up the defense just like they need to."
The guys are getting a lot of reps and growing tired, he added, but making a lot of progress.
Continual improvement, however, isn't limited to those battling to become new starters.
"We've got to improve on everything," Walker said.
Even so, he gave all the position groups a positive assessment.
Walker said the defensive line is looking stout and making plays. The linebacker corps is pretty experienced and guys are stepping up in the secondary.
As for individuals, Walker has a good vantage point in Blechen's shift from safety to linebacker. The Freshman All-American just happens to be one of Walker's roommates.
"He's picking it up, putting on the weight and picking up the defense," Walker said. " So it's just a matter of time. It takes time to figure out all the calls at linebacker but he's doing a good job."
Walker speaks from experience. He also began his collegiate career as a safety.
Utah coach Kyle Whittingham credits the former Davis High star for making a smooth transition.
"He embraced that change and did everything he needed to do to turn himself into a very good linebacker," Whittingham said.
Walker has also developed into one of the team leaders on defense. And though he's having fun putting on the pads this spring, Utah's historical conference switch is another thing on his mind.
"I can't wait for the season," Walker said. "... It's going to be a good time in the Pac-12."15 comments on this story
EXTRA POINTS: Whittingham said the Utes will scrimmage Saturday at Rice-Eccles Stadium. However, they'll keep an eye on the weather forecast and may end up moving the scheduled start time from 10 a.m. to the afternoon. ... Wide receiver DeVonte Christopher, who has been sidelined with a hamstring injury, practiced in a limited capacity Thursday. ... Whittingham noted that redshirt freshman Tyron Morris-Edwards has found a home at safety since moving over from wide receiver. ... Tight end Kendrick Moeai "tweaked" a calf muscle. The extent of the injury was not immediately known.