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Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News
Sam Brenner (74) will start for the Utes in the Las Vegas Bowl.

SALT LAKE CITY — Turns out a sophomore from Oceanside, Calif., will be starting for the Utah Utes in the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas.

Instead of it being quarterback Jordan Wynn, though, it'll be offensive lineman Sam Brenner. He's slated to start at left tackle against Boise State, replacing the injured John Cullen (broken forearm).

"I'm looking forward to the opportunity to get out there and play," Brenner said. "I got some playing time this year, but not as much as I liked and this is an opportunity to get some more."

Brenner, who is 6-foot-3 and weighs 304 pounds, stepped in when Cullen was injured in the third quarter of Utah's 17-16 victory over BYU.

"He did a nice job when he was pressed into duty in our last ballgame," said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham. "And he's played a lot of good reps throughout the last couple of years for us."

Although most of his action has come on special teams, Brenner has played in 24 games over the past two seasons. His work on the offensive line consists of 129 plays, including 76 this season.

Brenner's progress was slowed by a foot injury that kept him out of spring ball. He's since regained full health and is eager to make the most of his opportunities.

The biggest, thus far, will come next Wednesday in Vegas.

"Going into a bowl game against a really good opponent like Boise State, that makes it an even greater thing to have happen to me," said Brenner, who is determined to man a greater role in the future. "Hopefully next year, I can start at any of the open positions — guard, tackle, whatever. As long as I can earn a spot to play, that's my goal."

If he could pick his spot, however, he'd choose left tackle.

"They call it the money spot," said Brenner, who acknowledged it has taken a little time to adjust from the right side, where he has seen most of his action this season.

But, don't panic Ute fans.

"I feel like I'm getting ready pretty well," he said.

Brenner will be backed up at left tackle by redshirt freshman Percy Taumoleleau.

OCEANSIDE ALUMNI: Besides being high school teammates, Brenner and Wynn were once roommates in the dorms at Utah.

They've since moved to different housing. Their friendship, however, continues.

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"It's been real cool sharing this experience with him. We came up here at the same time because I grayshirted and he came up early," Brenner said. "We've been close since high school. So it's been really great to have someone to go through this with."

EXTRA POINTS: Grammy winners Boyz II Men will sing the National Anthem at MAACO Bowl Las Vegas. "Phantom" cast member Kristen Hertzenberg will precede it with "God Bless America." … An F-22 Raptor and an F-15 Eagle from Nellis Air Force Base will provide a pregame flyover. … Utah's practice Wednesday was closed to media.

MAACO Bowl Las Vegas

No. 20 Utah (10-2) vs. No. 10 Boise State (11-1)

Wed., Dec. 22, 6 p.m.

Sam Boyd Stadium, Las Vegas

TV: ESPN Radio: 700 AM

e-mail: dirk@desnews.com