Utes football: Utah coaches and players take time to pay respects to former assistant Aaron Alford

Published: Friday, Aug. 16 2013 4:55 p.m. MDT

Aaron Alford, a former assistant coach for the University of Utah, unexpectedly passed away. (Steve C. Wilson, University of Utah) Aaron Alford, a former assistant coach for the University of Utah, unexpectedly passed away. (Steve C. Wilson, University of Utah)

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah’s afternoon practice Friday was moved up a couple of hours so that coaches, players and staffers wishing to pay their respects to the late Aaron Alford could do so. A viewing for the former Ute assistant coach, who passed away unexpectedly Monday at the age of 39, was held in Park City.

Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said it was important to be there.

“We miss him,” Whittingham said. “He’s a great guy. He’s one of the genuinely great guys in the world.”

The Utes have dealt with some tough news recently. Just before camp started, incoming freshman Gaius Vaenuku was killed in a rollover accident. Utah freshman Salesi Uhatafe survived but his stepbrother and little brother lost their lives in the crash. Other difficulties included the passing of linebacker Travis Still’s mother, Shelly, last August and the death of defensive lineman Ron Tongaonevai’s wife, Janelle, shortly after the Utes’ 2011 win over Montana State.

“We’ve got some things to overcome and I guess that’s a part of life,” Whittingham said. “But it doesn’t make it any easier.”

It does, however, help put things in perspective.

“These are lessons that certainly do that,” Whittingham said.

Alford’s funeral services are scheduled for Saturday, 10 a.m., at the Mountain Life Church (7375 N. Silver Creek Road, Park City). Alford is survived by wife, Linda, and sons Elijah, Maxwell and Samuel.

Family support may be given through MountainLife.org or via “The Aaron Alford Memorial Fund” at Wells Fargo (account 2685560050).

FINAL SCRIMMAGE: Whittingham said that Saturday’s scrimmage would be extensive, noting that it would likely consist of about 90 plays, as was the case Tuesday.

“Every day is a big look but this is the final look and the final extensive live work,” Whittingham said. “We’ve got to get a lot of situational work done, as well as situations that need to be cleaned up as well as evaluate the individual players.”

At quarterback, Whittingham noted that Travis Wilson, Brandon Cox, Conner Manning and Adam Schulz are still in the mix.

Wilson, who has maintained the top spot on the depth chart throughout camp, expects to play in the scrimmage despite missing a couple of days of live work because of a slight ankle sprain.

“It’s fine — just a little sore,” he said. “But I’ll be ready to go (Saturday).”

Wilson added that the offense has plenty of things to accomplish in the scrimmage.

“We’ve got to just make sure we’re just crisp and clean and we’ve got to make sure we push the tempo, too,” he noted. “We’ve really got to push on that. So tempo is going to be big (Saturday).”

EXTRA POINTS: Junior defensive end Nate Orchard missed the morning session because his wife, Maegan, gave birth to the couple’s first baby — a daughter. ... Whittingham said that Thursday’s ribbon-cutting and open house for the new $32 million Spence and Cleone Eccles Football Center went well. “I thought that was a great event,” he said. ... Senior linebacker Brian Blechen hasn’t been practicing much and Whittingham said the Utes may soon have to move past him. Blechen, who has been slowed by tendinitis, does have a redshirt year available.

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