Shaky Smithson took a lot of reps at running back during Utah's bye week. Although he'll continue to see action at wide receiver, the junior college transfer has been enlisted to help fill the vacancy created by the season-ending knee injury suffered by Matt Asiata.
"That's really where his primary focus is right now," said head coach Kyle Whittingham, who noted that Smithson will join new starter Eddie Wide, freshman Sausan Shakerin and senior Ray Stowers in the mix at running back.
With Shakerin's status for Saturday's Mountain West Conference opener at Colorado State listed as questionable because of shoulder and wrist injuries, Smithson could very well be the No. 2 back this week.
"He's not a pure power guy," Whittingham said when asked to describe Smithson's running style. "But he's not a guy who relies on speed or quickness."
At 5-foot-11 and 210 pounds, Smithson has good size and some experience at running back — more than the four carries for 18 yards he had Sept. 26 against Louisville. He led East Los Angeles College in rushing — averaging 4.2 yards on 83 carries — as a sophomore.
The Utes have the luxury of using Smithson at running back because of depth at wideout. Whittingham said having David Reed, Jereme Brooks, John Peel, Aiona Key, DeVonte Christopher and Luke Matthews at receiver should prevent a big drop off.
DIFFICULT TIME: The earthquake and tsunami that hit Samoa and American Samoa affected several Utah football players.
"We are still very sensitive to what happened and to what they're going through," said Whittingham, who acknowledged the best therapy may be getting back into the swing of things.
"That's a tough deal, an extremely tough deal. They're working through it," Whittingham said. "We give them all the support we can give them."
BEADLES WILL PLAY: Left tackle Zane Beadles isn't about to let a lengthy gash in his shin keep him from playing Saturday. The four-inch wound, which required "too many stitches to count," occurred late in the first half of the Louisville game when the cleat of a Cardinal defender, who was cut blocked, whipped across Beadles' leg.
"It doesn't hurt too bad," Beadles said. "It's in a good spot where it doesn't really get pulled on or yanked on with any movements."
Beadles took it easy last week to give the wound a jump-start on healing. On Monday, he resumed full-time practice.
EXTRA POINTS: Offensive lineman Walter Watts has re-aggravated the knee he had scoped before the season and is questionable for the CSU game ... It's homecoming in Fort Collins and officials are expecting one of the largest crowds of the decade at 34,400-seat Hughes Stadium ... Utah leads the nation in opponent third-down conversions — stopping teams on 42-of-52 attempts.