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Utah Utes football notebook: Utah still sorting things out at cornerback

Published: Wednesday, Aug. 21 2013 6:35 p.m. MDT

Utah defensive coordinator Kalani Fifita Sitake at University of Utah football practice at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City on Aug. 20. (Tom Smart, Deseret News) Utah defensive coordinator Kalani Fifita Sitake at University of Utah football practice at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City on Aug. 20. (Tom Smart, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah’s cornerback situation still needs to be sorted out, and the clock is ticking — the Utes open the season at home against Utah State in just one week.

“That’s the most frustrating thing on my plate right now,” Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said of determining who is going to be the 4-3 and nickel guys. “It’s still a work in progress and there’s not much time left to sort it out, so it’s got to happen fairly quickly.”

The current depth chart has senior Keith McGill starting on one side and redshirt freshman Justin Thomas and junior Davion Orphey sharing the other top spot. Thomas is also listed as the lead nickel back. Reserves on the depth chart include junior Wykie Freeman and redshirt freshman Reggie Porter behind McGill, with freshman Hipolito Corporan backing Thomas and Orphey. Junior Joseph Smith is listed as the backup to Thomas at nickel.

Utah coach Kyle Whittingham talks to the team at University of Utah football practice at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City on Aug. 20. (Tom Smart, Deseret News) Utah coach Kyle Whittingham talks to the team at University of Utah football practice at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City on Aug. 20. (Tom Smart, Deseret News)

Solidifying the depth chart, though, has been slowed by Orphey and Porter spending time in “The Pit” with nagging injuries.

The Utes are looking for all new starting corners to replace Ryan Lacy, Moe Lee and Reggie Topps, who graduated.

BLECHEN UPDATE: The status of linebacker Brian Blechen remains uncertain. The senior, who is battling tendinitis, has yet to fully work his way back into the rotation — despite sharing the top spot on the latest depth chart at stud linebacker with Trevor Reilly.

Whittingham described Blechen’s situation as slowly progressing.

“(He’s) still not where he needs to be from a standpoint of having enough reps and moving well enough, but he’s getting better,” Whittingham said. “But he’s got a ways to go and a short period of time to accomplish what he needs to accomplish.”

Dennis Erickson, co-offensive coordinator, at University of Utah football practice at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City on Aug. 20. (Tom Smart, Deseret News) Dennis Erickson, co-offensive coordinator, at University of Utah football practice at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City on Aug. 20. (Tom Smart, Deseret News)

Whittingham said there will be no announcement about Blechen’s status before the season opener against Utah State. After telling reporters that “we’ll see what happens,” Whittingham joked that Blechen might be on the kickoff team that night.

Blechen does have a redshirt year to use, if needed.

MATCHING UP: Whittingham expects Utah’s defensive line to be one of the best in the Pac-12. He also noted that the offensive line is capable of such lofty status as well — if it continues to develop.

“I think we’re very good on both sides of the line of scrimmage relative to the Pac-12 Conference,” Whittingham said.

RESPECTING CHUCKIE: After saying that quarterback Chuckie Keeton was the first, second and third thing that came to mind with opening opponent USU, Whittingham joked that the Aggie star was also the fourth.

Utah's Brian Blechen at University of Utah football practice at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City on Aug. 20. (Tom Smart, Deseret News) Utah's Brian Blechen at University of Utah football practice at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City on Aug. 20. (Tom Smart, Deseret News)

“I think he’s a terrific player,” said Whittingham, who added that Keeton is a catalyst, a great competitor and someone he has all the respect in the world for.

EXTRA POINTS: Standing-room-only tickets ($45 each) remain for the season opener against Utah State. ... ESPN’s Holly Rowe was at practice Wednesday morning to do a segment on Utah kicker Andy Phillips for espnw.com. ... The Pac-12 Networks have relaunched pac-12.com with a variety of new features.

Email: dirk@desnews.com Twitter: @DirkFacer

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