Utah Utes football: Tauni Vakapuna moving up the running back depth chart despite setbacks
"I got lazy during my break," he explained. "I was just taking care of my mom and stuff."
Vakapuna, however, has rapidly returned to form — even doing so with a sore knee.
"I was fortunate to be with Matt and Eddie and some of those guys from last year. I saw how they worked through their injuries," he said. "So I'm just following their footsteps, trying to pass on the torch, I guess you could say."
As for Utah's new stable of running backs, Vakapuna insists "they're way good." He said White fits through the smallest of gaps and teams are going to pay for it if they miss a tackle on him.
Vakapuna's goals this season don't include any individual accolades. He simply wants to do whatever the team needs.
"Team comes first," Vakapuna said. "That's always been my motto when it comes to playing football."
It's an attitude that is appreciated by the Utes.
"He's a great teammate. We missed him in spring. It was a real downer not to have him in spring," Whittingham said. "We knew there was a chance we would get him back in fall but we weren't sure. When he was actually able to rejoin the team it was a big plus for us."
As such, he added, they're "elated" that Vakapuna is back.
"He's a great kid. He doesn't say much. He's very quiet," Whittingham continued. "All he does is get the job done. He's a guy that is very productive and goes about his business without much fanfare."
And there's more.
"The thing that really sets him apart is his toughness," Whittingham said. "He is as mentally tough and physically tough as anybody we have on the team. That really is something that is a strong suit for him."
Utah camp report
DAY 13: A morning practice at Ute Field.
STANDOUTS: Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said backup quarterback Jon Hays continued to take steps forward. The first offensive line also drew praise for their pass protection and effectiveness with the run game.
INJURIES: Quarterback Jordan Wynn missed practice for the second consecutive day because of illness. Defensive end Lei Talamaivao was scheduled to have his injured foot evaluated by a specialist.
NEXT UP: The final two-a-day of camp features a morning practice at Rice-Eccles Stadium and a late afternoon session at Ute Field.
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