Mike Terry, Deseret News
Utah's Ryan Lacy pulls down a pass in a recent practice. He has switched positions and is now playing cornerback.

Until last Saturday, Ryan Lacy had never played defense.

Well, maybe back in little league many years ago, but Lacy played on the offense as a running back and a receiver all through high school.

Due to a surplus of receivers and a need for defensive backs on the Utah football team, he made the switch to defense and is rapidly making his presence known.

Already he's listed as a backup cornerback on the depth chart and receiving praise from his coaches.

"He's making a nice transition," said coach Kyle Whittingham. "We want the best athletes on the field."

"He's doing a good job learning the defense," said cornerbacks coach J.D. Williams. "Everything's new to him and he doesn't have any bad habits now. We're just trying to groom him to be a great player. He has all the tools — he's 5-10, 185 pounds and runs a 4.3. That's all the makings of a great corner."

Lacy was recruited to Utah by former offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig and chose Utah because of the opportunity to play receiver. But when asked to make the switch last week, he was happy to oblige.

"This is my first time playing defense since ... forever," Lacy said. "I told the coaches I'd try it, and I'm loving it. Whatever I can do to help the team that's what I'm going to do."

The redshirt freshman sat out last year after having surgery on both shoulders.

R.J. Stanford and Brandon Burton are listed as the starters at cornerback with Lacy, Lamar Chapman and Justin Jones battling as the backups.

DEFENSE BENEFITS: Lacy certainly isn't the first to switch from one side of the ball to another at Utah.

"We've done that with so many guys — Sean Smith, R.J. Stanford, Brice McCain, Paul Kruger — that maybe played one position in high school and maybe even here and all of a sudden we switched them," said Whittingham.

When it was pointed out that all of the switches seem to benefit the defense, Whittingham, laughed and said, "Not always, not always. We have a plan to win, and the first priority is to play great defense."

MOVING UP: Redshirt freshman Kendrick Moeai is now listed as the No. 2 tight end on the depth chart, behind senior Chris Joppru. The former Copper Hills star may even start in some packages.

INJURY UPDATE: Defensive back Chris Washington, a freshman from Northridge High School, is scheduled to have shoulder surgery on Aug. 20. He's expected to be sidelined for the entire season. Others out indefinitely include wide receiver Sean Fitzgerald (knee scope), linebacker Thor Salanoa (broken scapula), wide receiver Zach Wade (knee scope) and defensive back Kameron Yancy (dislocated toe).

e-mail: sor@desnews.com