Utah Utes football: Quade Chappuis making most of his chance to start

Former walk-on set to start 1st 3 games in place of Blechen

Published: Monday, Aug. 13 2012 7:00 p.m. MDT

Utah's Quade Chappuis, foreground, and Brian Blechen on the opening day of the University of Utah football camp.

Tom Smart, Deseret News

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SALT LAKE CITY — There were definitely days that Quade Chappuis didn't know if walking on with the Utah football program was worth it.

"There are always doubts," said the Lone Peak graduate who will get a shot at being a starter for the Utah defense after starting safety Brian Blechen was suspended for three games earlier this month. "There are days when there is so much talent on the team that, yeah, you get discouraged. But you've got to keep grinding. … You're battling with so many kids, you've just got to keep motivated."

The decision to walk on with a college athletic program is always risky. But as a life-long Ute fan, the redshirt junior felt it was worth the gamble.

"It was a big risk, but like I said, my dad's a big Utah fan," said Quade Chappuis, who has spent the past two seasons on special teams after redshirting his freshman year. "It's just as big a dream for him as it is for me."

The decision to walk on at Utah, rather than play at a junior college or Division II program, came down to two things — he was a life-long Utah fan and he had a great relationship with Utah assistant coach Morgan Scalley.

"My mind was set on Utah since I was a freshman in high school," he said. "This is the place I wanted to go. In high school I thought I would get an offer, you plan on that. When it didn't come, I decided I was going to come here no matter what and follow my dreams."

In fact, Chappuis' only offers were junior college options, and while he considered that route, he decided to take a chance on earning a scholarship through hard work.

Scalley, who coaches the safeties and recruits for the Utes, said it is tough to ask players to consider walking on because it means they're paying their own way through college while trying to compete in a Division I football program.

"It's tough because of the financial burden," said Scalley. "But as competitive as he is, he's a guy who believed he could walk on and earn a scholarship. And he did it. It's a credit to who he is, and we're excited for his opportunity."

Scalley said Whittingham has offered three to four scholarships each year to walk-ons.

"So it's not rare," he said. "But guys have to earn it. It doesn't matter who you are, if you're the best guy for the job and you've proven it, you're going to be rewarded."

That includes starting spots.

Blechen, who had started 26 straight games and earned freshman All-American honors, as well as honorable mention Pac-12 honors last season, will have to out-perform Chappuis once he's eligible to play again.

"We love Brian," said Scalley. "He's going to work himself back. But in the meantime, we're not batting an eye; we've got guys who care, who want to play and who are going to be successful."

Scalley said the safety spot seems to be a question mark for the Utes at the beginning of every season. And yet, the defensive corps is deep enough each season that several players have been able to make significant contributions.

"We've got depth, and we've got guys who care," said Scalley. "And we're really not that worried."

Even Chappuis, who has to fill Blechen's considerable shoes (at least for three games), said the pressure in his new starting role is no different than the pressure he's felt every time he entered a game for the Utes.

"There is always pressure playing in any situation," he said, "and you're on such a big stage here in the Pac-12 now, that any role on the team, special teams, whatever, is a big role and comes with a lot of pressure."

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