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Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
Utah Utes defensive back Brian Blechen (4) works out during spring practice in Salt Lake City Tuesday, March 18, 2014.

SALT LAKE CITY — Morgan Scalley hasn’t weighed under 180 pounds since he played for Highland High 16 years ago. However, the Utah assistant football coach found himself down to that weight last week thanks to a crash diet to help motivate one of his players.

Scalley, the Utes’ safeties coach, had been trying to help senior Brian Blechen shed some weight and get down to 215 pounds from 230. Unlike linemen and linebackers, who are usually trying to gain weight, defensive backs often try to drop weight to improve their speed and quickness.

Blechen started at the beginning of the year and had lost most of the suggested weight when Scalley made a bet, er, challenge to get him lighter.

“Three weeks ago he was like, ‘You’re not at your weight yet,’" Blechen said. “I said, ‘Coach I’m almost there, a couple more pounds.’ He said, ‘I’m going to show you, just give me three weeks and I’ll drop 15 pounds.’’’

“I just did it to show him it’s easy to do it,’’ Scalley said.

So Scalley “starved” himself for three weeks, and when the challenge ended last Wednesday, he had not only dropped 15 pounds, but 24 pounds.

“It was torture for three weeks,’’ Scalley said. “I got down to 177 pounds — I haven’t been that low since high school.’’

And how did he do it?

“Worked out twice a day, no carbs, no sugar, just straight protein and salad,’’ he said. “I starved myself.’’

It turns out Scalley wasn’t the only coach that lost weight. The other defensive coaches — coordinator Kalani Sitake, line coach Ilaisa Tuiaki and cornerbacks coach Sharrieff Shah — joined in, and the four combined to lose 86 pounds, with Tuiaki edging Scalley with 25 lost pounds.

“It was me trying to get Blechen to lose weight and when I took it on, the defensive staff said, 'OK, let’s all do it,'" Scalley said.

Blechen, who was moved to linebacker for a while two years ago, said being thinner helps him at the safety position.

“At that weight I can run around a lot faster and be in better shape for the distance we have to cover than when I was at 230,’’ he said.

So the final tally is 86 pounds for four defensive coaches, compared to 3 pounds or so for Blechen, who said it took him just three days to get the final pounds off down to 215.

“The pace (Scalley) set was definitely more and he lost his weight faster than I did,’’ Blechen said. “But I won the bet, let me say that.’’

CELEBRATION: So what did Scalley do at the end of the three-week challenge?

“I went to Ruth’s Chris Steak House, then a movie afterward with buttered popcorn followed by Banbury Cross doughnuts,’’ he said with a big smile.

Scalley said he’s already back up to 185 but plans to settle at that weight rather than get above 200 again.

BLECHEN'S POSITION: Because of all the injuries at the linebacker position with Gionni Paul and Jacoby Hale both likely missing fall camp and being out until the season starts, there’s been talk that Blechen will be moved back to the linebacker position, where he played for a time in 2012.

However, both Sitake and coach Kyle Whittingham believe the Utes will be fine with Uaea Masina and Marcus Sanders-Williams, who was just moved over from running back, joining returning starters Jared Norris and Jason Whittingham. They said the Utes often play just two linebackers when they’re in the nickel defense.

Of Blechen, Sitake said, “We’d like to keep him at safety, but he could play ‘backer. He’s been doing it on and off this spring. As it stands now, I think we’re OK.’’

UTE NOTES: Saturday’s red-white spring game will start at 1 p.m. at Rice-Eccles Stadium and be televised live on the Pac-12 Network. ... The game will consist of two regular 10-minute quarters in the first half with a running clock in the second half. ... Before the contest, there will be a MUSS football game at 11 a.m. and an alumni game at noon. Both will be flag football.