Utah Utes football: Coach Kyle Whittingham expresses 'love, sympathy and support' to Tongaonevai

Published: Tuesday, Sept. 6 2011 8:51 p.m. MDT

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah coach Kyle Whittingham opened his weekly press conference by addressing the death of defensive lineman Ron

Tongaonevai's wife, Janelle, who was killed in a car accident after Utah's 27-10 win over Montana State Thursday night.

On behalf of the football program, Whittingham expressed "our heartfelt love, sympathy and support" to Tongaonevai.

"That's really put everything in perspective," Whittingham said. "It's gut-wrenching and we're doing everything we can to support Ron and help him through this difficult time and that's been first and foremost on our minds."

It's a situation that there's no blueprint for, Whittingham added, and something he's never dealt with before.

"We're trying our best to make sure we're giving Ron every bit of support that we possibly can," he said before turning his remarks to the task at hand on the field — Saturday's Pac-12 opener at USC.

Services for Janelle Tongaonevai have been scheduled for later this week. A viewing is scheduled for Thursday at the Kearns 3rd Ward building (4715 South 4300 West) at 6 p.m. The funeral will be Friday at 11 a.m., location to be announced.

REINSTATEMENTS: Both Utah and USC have reinstated projected contributors this week.

Whittingham announced that senior defensive end/linebacker Nai Fotu, who had a DUI arrest in February, will play on Saturday.

"It's good to have him back," Whittingham said. "I commend Nai for the things that he did that were outlined for him over the past several months. It was pretty rigid and strenuous and he adhered to everything that we laid out and did a great job with it."

The Trojans, meanwhile, have reinstated senior tailback Marc Tyler, who led the team with 913 yards rushing last season. He was benched for last week's opener against Minnesota after a series of incidents over the offseason.

USC coach Lane Kiffin told reporters that Tyler met unspecified requirements to rejoin the team this week.

"(He) completed all those things and hopefully he'll continue that way," Kiffin said.

INJURY UPDATE: Starting left tackle John Cullen is practicing again after missing the Montana State game with a concussion.

The only Utes who are questionable for the USC game are running back Tauni Vakapuna (high ankle sprain) and fullback Shawn Asiata (hamstring).

RECRUITING MARTINEZ: Whittingham acknowledged the Utes really recruited former Cottonwood High star John Martinez, who is now USC's starting right guard as a sophomore.

"He was a national recruit. I don't know anyone in the country that wouldn't have been delighted to have him on their football team," Whittingham said. "He was a guy that we made every effort to get, had when been in the Pac-12 at the time maybe we would have a better shot at him."

OTHER RECRUIT: Utah picked an early recruiting commitment last week from Lio Lafaele, a 6-foot-4, 315-pound offensive lineman from Centennial High School in Corona, Calif.

Email: dirk@desnews.com

Twitter: DirkFacer

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