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Utah Utes football notebook: Replacing Asiata tough task for U.

Published: Sunday, July 5 2015 7:49 a.m. MDT

Matt Asiata (Tom Smart, University Of Utah Sports Inform) Matt Asiata (Tom Smart, University Of Utah Sports Inform)

Utah coach Kyle Whittingham acknowledged that Matt Asiata's season-ending knee injury overshadowed Saturday's 30-14 win over Louisville.

"He brings a lot to the table for our team on a lot of different levels," said Whittingham, who noted that Asiata is a team captain and a huge part of the offense. "We'll miss Matt. That's a blow to our team. But we've got to rebound, regroup and have some guys step up. That's what needs to happen."

It already has.

Backup Eddie Wide stepped in for Asiata and rushed for 129 yards against the Cardinals.

The transition, though, won't be completely smooth. Asiata and Wide have different rushing styles. Whittingham pointed out that Asiata is a power runner and Wide is more speed and quickness.

Even so, Whittingham doesn't think it'll change Utah's offense much. Maybe, he explained, it'll be tweaked to include a little more emphasis on Wide's ability to get the ball to the outside.

"Eddie Wide has a skill set that is different than Matt's and we need to accentuate and emphasize what he does well," Whittingham said.

Wide, he continued, will likely get 18-20 carries per game — a lighter load than the 25-30 carries that Asiata had.

The so-called "Asiata package," however, will continue. Wide took several direct snaps against Louisville.

"I suppose we'll have a new name for it now," Whittingham said.

STATS-A-RAMA: Asiata still leads the Mountain West Conference in rushing with 82.5 yards per game. Safety Robert Johnson (0.5 fumble recoveries per game) is Utah's other league statistical leader.

Three Utes are currently No. 2 — quarterback Terrance Cain (total offense), Luke Matthews (punt returns) and Joe Phillips (field goals).

AREAS OF EMPHASIS: Despite a 3-1 start to the season, Whittingham noted a couple of primary concerns the Utes need to address.

"We have a lot of things to work on," he said while targeting two aspects on offense — the red zone and third downs. "Those are two areas that we've got to work and address and try to become more efficient in those situations."

The Utes are 10-of-15 in red-zone scoring this season. Only six, however, are touchdowns. As for third downs, they've converted on just 21-of-57 (37 percent).

JOHNSON RELEASED: Former Utah quarterback Brian Johnson has been released by the United Football League's New York Sentinels.

"He'll be successful in whatever he pursues," Whittingham said. "Whether it's in football or outside of football."

Johnson, he added, could join the Utes as an administrative assistant. Whittingham said they've had a lot of conversations about him helping out if an opportunity arose.

e-mail: dirk@desnews.com

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