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Utah Utes football: Four battling for halfback job

Published: Tuesday, July 7 2015 6:49 p.m. MDT

SALT LAKE CITY — One of the biggest priorities for the Utah football team this spring is finding a starting running back — or two.

With their new offense under new offensive coordinator Norm Chow, the Utes are expected to use a lot of two-back sets as they gravitate away from the spread offense that has been in operation for much of the past decade.

The problem is, heading into spring ball, the Utes have zero experience at the running back position due to the graduation of Matt Asiata and Eddie Wide and the career-ending injury to Sausan Shakerin.

Two days into spring ball, the Utes have identified four top candidates for the running back position in freshman Harvey Langi, junior college transfer John White, converted receiver Luke Matthews and Thretton Palamo, a 22-year-old former professional rugby player.

"We're trying to get those four up to speed," said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham. "Those four are getting all the reps, and we'll try to get some separation. When we see some live action in pads, we'll be able to get some more definitive evaluations."

The four running backs give the Utes a good variety to choose from.

Langi, who helped lead Bingham to the state 5A title, is a power back at 6-foot-1, 221 pounds, while White, who starred for L.A. Harbor College, is more of a scatback at 5-9, 190. Palamo is the biggest of the bunch at 6-2, 237 pounds, while Matthews checks in at 6-1, 206.

"All four have done good things," said Chow. "Harvey's impressive because he should be in high school. John just got here, and he's picking it up well. Luke's never played the position, and Thretton has never played the position. So it's a new group, and the four of them work awfully hard."

Running backs coach Dave Schramm isn't too worried about the lack of experience right now and says it's too soon to say much about them.

"We've got a bunch of new guys, so we've got a long way to go," Schramm said. "They give great effort, they work hard, but we've got a lot of habits to break. We haven't put the pads on yet, so it's hard to judge. You've got to make the decision based on real football, not running around in your underwear."

Whittingham said the Utes will run a lot of two-back sets this year with a fullback. Some of the aforementioned backs can play both positions. He said the top two fullback candidates are also new to the position — Boo Anderson, who played linebacker last year and Dallin Rogers, who played tight end.

UTE NOTES: The team practiced in the stadium Thursday, where it was above 50 degrees the whole time. ...

Saturday's practice will be the first in pads for the team this spring. ...

The Utes will practice twice next week, before taking 10 days off for spring break.

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