SALT LAKE CITY — Utah cornerback Reggie Porter suffered a knee injury in Tuesday’s scrimmage and will be out for the season. Head coach Kyle Whittingham made the announcement Wednesday morning, adding that the sophomore will have surgery in the next couple of weeks.
Whittingham said the loss of Porter is “very, very disappointing” and “a big blow” as the Utes prepare for the upcoming season. He explained that everything looked good from an initial exam of Porter’s knee but “upon further examination” it was determined to be more serious.
“He was a guy that we were counting on,” Whittingham said. “He was right in the mix battling for a starting job.”
The 5-foot-11, 181-pound defensive back from Amite, Louisiana, appeared in 11 games last season (starting twice) and made 10 tackles with one pass breakup. Whittingham noted that Porter may have been having the best camp of any cornerback before the injury, compounding the disappointment.
“Reggie will come back next year as good as ever,” Whittingham predicts. “He’s a hard worker and a tough kid and he’ll get through it.”
In the meantime, the Utes must work around it.
Whittingham acknowledged that injuries are the unfortunate part of the business.
“When it does happen you’ve got to have guys step up and pick up the slack,” he said.
While making a point that projected starters Eric Rowe, Davion Orphey and Justin Thomas are playing very well, Whittingham mentioned that safety Brian Allen is going to get reps at cornerback (he did Wednesday) and that sophomore wide receiver Dominique Hatfield may see double duty. Hatfield had eight interceptions as a senior at Crenshaw High School in Los Angeles and was the Defensive Player of the Year in his league.
SATURDAY SHOWDOWN: After Utah's late practice on Wednesday, Whittingham was asked if Travis Wilson still had a firm grasp on the No. 1 spot at quarterback over Oklahoma transfer Kendal Thompson.
"Now it's up for grabs. It was pretty much a dead heat in the scrimmage (on Tuesday)," Whittingham said. "And the next test is Saturday. That's another chance for both those guys to — I don't want to say redeem themselves — but they both know it, they need to elevate their play."
When asked if Wilson's playing experience gave him an edge, Whittingham acknowledged it does a little bit.
"But Kendal has all but erased that gap due to his study and command of the offense now," Whittingham said. "It was probably an edge the first six or seven practices, not so much of an edge now."
SWITCHING SIDES: After three years at left end, senior Nate Orchard has switched sides to the right.
“You usually put your premier pass rusher on the right side. That’s the quarterback’s blind side, just traditionally,” Whittingham said. “That’s not 100 percent of the time accurate with every football team, but most teams will put their strongest pass rusher on the defensive right, and that’s why conversely the offenses put their best pass protector at left tackle.”
Whittingham added that Orchard is good with the move.
“He feels comfortable over there and we think he’s ready for a big year.”
POSITION MOVES: Freshman tight end Wallace Gonzalez, who has spent the past three years playing baseball in the Houston Astros organization, is now seeing time at defensive end.
“He’s a tremendous athlete. He’s a big, strong, fast, athletic kid. He hasn’t played football for three or four years so we’re getting a look at him,” Whittingham said. “I had in the back of my mind, right when we got him here that we may give him a shot at defensive end.”
Whittingham explained that they’ll experiment with the position switch for two or three days and then make a decision of where to put Gonzalez permanently.
In another move, sophomore defensive tackle Sam Tevi has been moved to the offensive line. The 6-foot-5, 295-pounder from Texas will compete for the starting job at right tackle — jumping right into the two-deep.
“I think that’s probably his most natural spot,” Whittingham said.
EXTRA POINTS: Whittingham said that sophomore defensive end Hunter Dimick was the “player of the game” on defense following film review of Tuesday’s scrimmage — earning the starting spot on the left side unless “someone beats him out on Saturday.” On offense, Whittingham said junior receiver Tim Patrick was “outstanding” in the scrimmage. A day after ripping the quarterbacks on their performance on Tuesday, Whittingham said they were better and improved on Wednesday but added that “the bullets weren’t live today.” The real key, he continued, is when the bullets are live. Linebacker Jared Norris won the latest competition in the “Training Camp Olympics,” which was a soccer event called the “FIFA World Cup Penalty Kickoff.” Freshman defensive back Travonne Hobbs has told the Utah sports information department that he wants to be referred to by his nickname “Boobie” Hobbs.