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Utah Utes football: Jon Hays still starting QB despite team's poorest performance of season

Published: Monday, Oct. 24 2011 9:44 p.m. MDT

Quarterback #9 Jon Hays looks to pass during practice. University of Utah holds practice Saturday, Aug. 13, 2011.

Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah coach Kyle Whittingham didn't sugarcoat things at his weekly press conference on Monday. He said it was safe to say that last Saturday's 34-10 loss at California was the Utes' "poorest performance of the year."

The Utes' offense didn't do too much, he noted, and the four turnovers led to 17 points for Cal.

"We couldn't make first downs, we couldn't run the ball, we couldn't throw the ball," Whittingham said. "There were no redeeming qualities and we've got to get that fixed. We've got our work cut out for us."

Finding a new quarterback, though, isn't part of the plan. Jon Hays still tops the depth chart as Utah prepares for Saturday's home game against Oregon State.

"Jon's our quarterback," Whittingham said. "We think he gives us the best chance to win."

Barring any developments in practice, Hays is expected to make his third consecutive start for the Utes. Sophomore Griff Robles will be the backup, with walk-on freshman Adam Schulz manning the No. 3 spot. Whittingham said the plan to redshirt freshman Tyler Shreve is still on.

"That's where we're at," Whittingham said. "We've just got to figure out a way to get it done."

The Utes plan to recruit two new quarterbacks this year, including California prep star Travis Wilson, who has already committed to the program.

That will give Utah 4-5 quarterbacks next season.

In the meantime, Whittingham is confident the Utes can succeed on offense if they don't turn the ball over and are able to score touchdowns in the red zone.

"I think we're good enough special teams-wise and defensively that we'll be in every ballgame, but we've got to get that done offensively," he said.

DEVONTE TO RETURN: Top receiver DeVonte Christopher, who has missed the past two games with an ankle injury, is expected to play this week. Whittingham said it was close last week, but the medical staff made the decision to sit him out because he wasn't quite 100 percent.

"The bottom line with DeVonte is he should be ready this week," said Whittingham, who added that free safety Eric Rowe should also be OK. The freshman sprained his knee last week.

EXTRA POINTS: Saturday will be Utah's fourth annual "Blackout Game." The Utes will wear black uniforms and fans are encouraged to sport black attire at the game. ... Oregon State returned 700 tickets last week. For ticket information, call (801) 581-UTIX. ... Utah tops the Pac-12 in kickoff coverage (47.5 yards per return).

Email: dirk@desnews.com

Twitter: @DirkFacer

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