SALT LAKE CITY — Utah head football coach Kyle Whittingham calls it a "great transition." Although the Utes are just one-third of the way through spring practices, Brian Blechen's position switch is already considered a success.
"He's doing a phenomenal job at linebacker," Whittingham said of Blechen, who was a Freshman All-American last season at safety. "He is where he belongs now. He's a natural."
So much so, in fact, that Whittingham acknowledged that "the door is closed" when asked there was any chance Blechen could be moved back to the secondary.
Blechen is adding permanency to the move by adding weight to his 6-foot-2 frame. He's already up to 210 pounds, up 10 from last season and 10 off his target weight for Utah's first Pac-12 campaign.
Blechen's body transformation is preparation for his new role.
"Every play now I'm going to be having to take on linemen and fullbacks and stuff like that," he said. "So really just trying to get more physical and durable."
As such, the sophomore is eating a lot and putting in a lot of extra work. In addition, teammates Chaz Walker and Matt Martinez, the other projected starters at linebacker, are helping Blechen become better acquainted with the position.
"It's going really good. Linebacker is a lot of fun. Learning under Chaz and Matt, you know, they really show me the ropes," Blechen said. "In playing safety last year, I kind of knew a little bit about it but they're really helping me out getting it down."
Blechen, who is Walker's roommate, has fit right in with the linebackers.
"He's one of the guys," Whittingham said. "That group is one of the more tightly knit groups on the team and they've accepted him with open arms."
The depth chart currently has Martinez (rover), Walker (middle) and Blechen (stud) in the top spots with injured senior J.J. Williams (foot) also in the mix. Top reserves at linebacker include freshman Jacoby Hale at rover, freshman V.J. Fehoko in the middle, with sophomore Trevor Reilly and junior Victor Spikes behind Blechen at stud.
EXTRA POINTS: Thursday's practice was Utah's last before spring break. The Utes will resume spring ball on Monday, March 28. ... Utah's "Pro Day" is set for March 29 at the Spence Eccles Field House. ... Lucky Radley has been moved back to running back from defensive back and Boo Andersen is in the linebacking corps again after a stint at fullback.
Copyright 2017, Deseret News Publishing Company