Utah Utes football notebook: Utes hold early practices to prepare for Saturday's 10 a.m. game with Pitt

Published: Monday, Oct. 10 2011 10:51 p.m. MDT

SALT LAKE CITY — Fall break at the University of Utah has come at a good time for the football team. It's allowed the Utes to practice at 10 a.m. today and Wednesday, the same time as Saturday's game at Pittsburgh is scheduled to kick off.

Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said its something that does matter as the Utes try to acclimate to the earlier time frame.

"You're going to wake up and it's pregame meal and it's going to be kickoff in a big hurry," he explained.

To combat the two-time-zone difference, Whittingham and the Utes will leave a day earlier than they usually do on road trips. That decision was made long ago. It proved to be wise when the early start time was determined earlier this month.

The sooner, the better according to Utah quarterback Jon Hays. He's eager to get back on the field after last week's disappointing 35-14 setback to Arizona State.

Playing at Heinz Field, home of the NFL's Pittsburgh Steelers, is also something the junior is looking forward to doing.

"It's fun, definitely for me coming from where I've been and what I was expecting out of my career when I went to Nebraska-Omaha," Hays said. "I'm excited to go there and excited to do some things in that stadium."

INJURY UPDATE: Quarterback Jordan Wynn, who will have surgery on his left shoulder and is out for the season, is not the only Ute player who is banged up.

"It's pretty extensive," Whittingham said of the injury list. "That's one thing that was a big negative coming out of that game is we got some guys banged up."

The biggest news — other than Wynn — was a season-ending knee injury to punt returner Charles Henderson. Running back Tauni Vakapuna is out for Pitt because of an ankle injury, while wide receiver DeVonte Christopher (ankle), safety Keith McGill (shoulder) and linebacker Jacoby Hale (concussion) are considered questionable.

EXTRA POINTS: Whittingham confirmed that Griff McNabb will now be the primary punt returner in place of the injured Henderson. McNabb was praised for being "very sure-handed." … Sophomore standouts Brian Blechen and Trevor Reilly are defensive "wildcards" who will see action at both linebacker and safety, depending on offensive schemes Utah faces the rest of the season. Blechen tops this week's depth chart at strong safety, while Reilly is No. 1 at stud linebacker.

Email: dirk@desnews.com Twitter: @DirkFacer

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