We're searching to see if anyone can separate themselves. If not, they’ll all continue to get carries because they’re all producing and they’re all contributing. —Kyle Whittingham
SALT LAKE CITY — At the start of the year, Kelvin York was Utah’s No. 1 running back. But he was quickly supplanted by sophomore Bubba Poole, who outplayed him in the opening win over Utah State. Meanwhile, Lucky Radley emerged in the Weber State game when he was the team’s leading rusher with 111 yards. Then York came back from nowhere to be the Utes’ top rusher last week against UCLA with 51 yards.
So who will be the Utes’ running back this Saturday when No. 5 Stanford comes to town?
According to coach Kyle Whittingham, it will likely be all three — just like a week ago.
Poole has the most carries (63) this year and most net yards with 330 in five games; Radley has 137 yards on just 21 carries; and York has 130 on 34 carries. Last week York had the most carries with 13, while Radley had seven and Poole five.
“We’re trying to find out if one of the three will separate themselves,’’ said Whittingham. “It’s not a situation where we’re searching for someone to give us production, because we’re getting production. But we're searching to see if anyone can separate themselves. If not, they’ll all continue to get carries because they’re all producing and they’re all contributing.’’
Poole is still listed as the starter, while York and Radley are co-backups on the depth chart.
BAD COMPARISON: Stanford is the sixth highest-ranked team Utah has ever played with its No. 5 ranking.
So how good is Stanford compared to other ranked teams the Utes have played in recent years?
Whittingham says the Cardinal are not as good as No. 4 Alabama, which the Utes defeated in the 2009 Sugar Bowl. He compared them more to No. 4 TCU in 2010.
If that’s the case the Utes could be in big trouble. The final score of that game was 47-7 for the Horned Frogs.
MORE TOUCHBACKS: Since the rules changed a couple of years ago and the ball was moved to the 25-yard line after kickoff touchbacks, some teams try to kick high and short in an effort to pin opponents inside the 20 to gain some field position.
That’s not the case with Utah, but the Utes have had several kickoffs end up between the goal line and 10-yard line — with just five touchbacks on 26 kickoffs this year.
Whittingham just laughed when asked if it was a strategy to kick short and pin the opponents inside the 20- or 25-yard line.
“We would prefer touchbacks every time,’’ he said. “We’ve been working on that to get a little more hang time and a little more depth.’’
This week the Utes will want as many touchbacks as possible against Stanford, who relied on returner Ty Montgomery in last week’s win over Washington. He returned the opening kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown and had a 68-yard return on a kickoff in the third quarter to set up the Cardinal’s final touchdown.
“He’s a real weapon, so we’ve got to figure out a way to keep the ball out of his hands,’’ Whittingham said.
NOTES: The Utes are 2-3 all time against Stanford — with both wins coming on the road. The last game between the two was in 1996 when the Utes won 17-10 at Stanford. ... As of Monday, there were still some bleacher and standing-room-only tickets available for Saturday’s game. ... Freshman placekicker Andy Phillips is still perfect for the season with 9 of 9 field goals and 24 of 24 PATs. ... Ute punter Tom Hackett is tied for first in the Pac-12 in punt average (44.0), punts inside the 20 (11) and punts more than 50 yards (7). ... Receiver Dres Anderson has four straight games with 100 or more reception yards and is tied for the national lead in receptions more than 50 yards with four.