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Mike Terry, Deseret News
R.J. Stanford pulls down a pass at the University of Utah football practice at the McArthey Practice Fields in Salt Lake City on Thursday.

Utah cornerback R.J. Stanford is now the fastest of them all.

The senior defensive back, who is slated to become a full-time starter this fall, ran the 40-yard dash in a team-best 4.3 seconds during summer conditioning.

Stanford also topped his teammates in the vertical jump (37.5 inches), broad jump (11 feet, 5 inches), triple jump (34 feet, 10 inches) and the agility test.

Finishing first is something Stanford takes great pride in. It's a position he's always determined to maintain.

"You want to go out there and definitely compete in anything you do," Stanford said.

The former running back, who made the switch to defense late in his freshman year, has a special set of skills — and Utah coach Kyle Whittingham knows it.

"He's a very gifted athlete, one of the most gifted athletes that have ever come through here as far as speed, quickness and agility," Whittingham said. "R.J. has gotten better and better each and every year in the program.

"He really came in with virtually no defensive background. We moved him. We put him at corner," continued the coach. "He was starting from square one. But when you have that kind of ability that he possesses, the transition is something that's not that difficult from a physical standpoint."

Other variables, however, took more time.

"You've got to change your mindset," Stanford said. "So that's been coming along."

Things have progressed to the point where the Chino, Calif., product considers himself well-versed in the details of the defense.

So much so, in fact, that he is very confident about his increased role with the team. Stanford and sophomore Brandon Burton — the second-fastest player on the team with 4.33 speed — are ticketed to replace NFL draftees Sean Smith and Brice McCain as Utah's starting cornerbacks.

"Are the Utes OK? They're definitely OK at corner. We've all got a job to do and we are going to get it done," Stanford said. "Yes, we lost two good corners. But we've got two good corners coming back. We are going to get the job done. Definitely."

Utah, he continued, has depth at the position as well. Conroy Black, Kamaron Yancy and Lamar Chapman are among those in the mix.

"We're good," Stanford said.

Senior safety Robert Johnson agrees.

"Defense-wise we look like we're right back where we left off," he explained. "I feel comfortable with them back there."

And speaking of comfort, Stanford really appreciates the compliment Whittingham made about his athleticism.

"It brings a smile to my face. It's definitely an honor," he said. "It's definitely something that you want to keep working towards — being a good athlete and just getting the job done."

Stanford, who was Utah's nickel back the past two seasons, has appeared in 38 games (starting nine) in his career with the Utes. He's made 79 tackles, including 41 last season.

Utah camp report

Day 2: "Another good day," Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said after split sessions in helmets and shorts Friday morning. "About like yesterday — a good mentality, a good work ethic and we got a lot done."

Standouts: Whittingham said linebacker Stevenson Sylvester is playing his best football. Other notable performances, he noted, included the play of wide receiver David Reed — as well as "A" session quarterbacks Corbin Louks and Terrance Cain.

Injuries: Linebacker Mo Neal will be held out until Monday or Tuesday because of cramping.

Next: The Utes will practice as one group today — adding shoulder pads — as they progress through the NCAA's acclimatization period. "Media Day" is scheduled for this afternoon.

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