He's obviously healthy enough to play a bunch of snaps like he did last week, but still hasn't caught up from missing that big chunk of time during fall camp yet. —Utah coach Kyle Whittingham
SALT LAKE CITY — By his own estimation, Utah running back Zack Moss estimates he’s at about 95 percent. That’s despite some nagging injuries that have plagued the true freshman from Hialeah Gardens, Florida.
Entering Friday night’s Pac-12 opener against USC, Moss leads the Utes in rushing with 76.5 yards per game. He’s coming off a career-high 95-yard performance in last week’s 34-17 win at San Jose State.
Moss ran the ball 12 times against the Spartans and figures he could handle 20 carries this week.
“No sweat,” said Moss, who noted that his conditioning is getting better (he’s running a few extra gassers in practice each day) and is adjusting to the altitude.
"He's close to full health. He's obviously healthy enough to play a bunch of snaps like he did last week, but still hasn't caught up from missing that big chunk of time during fall camp yet,” said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham. “He should be better this week as far as the health and endurance. He should be better this week than last, it should be an upward trend barring any setbacks."
Moss is eager to contribute in any way possible. He considers himself “an all-around back” able to run or catch the ball out of the backfield, block, and/or line up in the slot.
“Whatever the team asks me to do, I’m going to try to do it to my best,” Moss said.
ANOTHER HOMECOMING: While much has been made of former Ute Stevie Tu’ikolovatu and his return to Rice-Eccles Stadium this week, there’s another big homecoming as well. Salem Hills High School graduate Porter Gustin is a starting defensive end for USC, leading the Trojans with 3.5 tackles for loss and two sacks.
"We recruited him hard. We thought he was one of the best players in the state,” Whittingham said. “We would have loved to have had him become a Ute but he chose to go elsewhere. We have a lot of respect for what he does."
Gustin is USC’s second-leading tackler with 19 stops.
LIKES THE UTES: Safety Marcus Williams grew up in the Los Angeles area and was once a USC fan, although he didn’t really watch all that much football while growing up.
“I’m just happy I’m here,” Williams said of ending up at Utah. “This is my favorite team.”
IT’S A BLACKOUT: Utah will dress for the part in its ninth-annual “Blackout Game.” The Utes are 6-2 in previous contests wearing dark gear.
“I’m not a big uniform guy, but our players sure get excited about them,” Whittingham said. “So if that gives them a little boost, then I’m all for it.”
LIGHT THE FIRE: USC cornerback Adoree Jackson, who has also seen action at wide receiver while with the Trojans, told the Associated Press he hopes to be a “spark plug” for an offense that has been slow out of the gates this season.
"I feel like I'm the lighter fluid to the barbecue,” Jackson said. “Just throw me in there and then get the party started."