SALT LAKE CITY — There’s a chance that Utah junior tight end Jake Murphy, who broke his wrist in the Utes' loss to UCLA on Oct. 3, could be back on the field Saturday at Oregon.
“If he’s available he will play,” said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham, who explained that Murphy has rehabbed very well and that whatever needed to happen has happened.
Although Murphy has returned to practice, as of Wednesday night he had yet to be cleared for full contact. Whittingham said his status for this week’s game will be monitored all the way until Saturday.
“If Jake Murphy has any possibility of playing he will be on the trip,” Whittingham said. “If he’s available — as per the medical staff — he will definitely be on the flight.”
Murphy, a starter and all-conference candidate, had 10 catches for 179 yards and one touchdown before being sidelined with the injury in the fifth game of the season. Utah has gone 1-3 without him.
Whittingham called Murphy’s return remarkable. He was originally expected to be out until bowl season, at best.
“He’s way ahead of schedule. We weren’t counting on him coming back at all,” Whittingham said. “But if he continues on the track he’s on now and the path he’s on now, we expect him back before the end of the season.”
Murphy recently returned to practice and Whittingham said he has given everyone a boost and been a positive, even though his playing status is uncertain.
When asked if Utah’s new football facility and sports medicine center had anything to do with Murphy’s swift recovery, Whittingham joked that maybe the vibes are so good in there that it just heals bones.
LAST OF THE PAC: Although Utah has played Oregon as recently as 2009, the Ducks will be the last Pac-12 team the Utes have faced as a member of the conference since joining the league in 2011.
“I don’t think that makes it an extra challenge,” Whittingham said. “You see them as you study other opponents.”
The big challenge, he noted, is Oregon’s program and home field.
“The thing that’s difficult is they’re talented and Autzen Stadium is a tough place to play,” Whittingham said.
EXTRA POINTS: Whittingham said that redshirt freshman Isaac Asiata has been working with the ones at right tackle this week and will join the five regular starters (Jeremiah Poutasi, Jeremiah Tofaeono, Vyncent Jones, Junior Salt and Siaosi Aiono) in seeing action Saturday. ... Running back Kelvin York got “dinged up” in the loss to Arizona State and his status for the Oregon game is uncertain. ... Whittingham said Wednesday’s practice was “spirited” and just what the Utes needed it to be.
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