It’ll be cool to see those guys I played against in high school and now I get to play against in college —Jared Norris
SALT LAKE CITY — It’s not exactly old home week for Jared Norris, but this week’s game against Fresno State will be a little more special for the Ute linebacker.
Norris grew up in Bakersfield, California, at the southern end of the San Joaquin Valley, a little over 100 miles down Highway 99 from Fresno. Although he wasn’t a huge fan who used to go to all the games, he was recruited by the Bulldogs and saw several others from his hometown head up to play at Fresno.
A couple will be key players on the other side of the line Saturday afternoon when the Utes and Bulldogs meet in a 1 p.m. contest at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
One is starting quarterback Brian Burrell, who played for Bakersfield High School, and the other is Kyrie Wilson, the Bulldogs’ starting inside linebacker, who played for Ridgeview High School in Bakersfield.
“It’ll be cool to see those guys I played against in high school and now I get to play against in college,’’ said Norris.
When they were seniors, Norris got the better of Burrell as Centennial took a 28-14 victory on its way to a league championship.
“It was always a big game when Brian and I went against each other, because he was the quarterback and I played defense,’’ said Norris. The Centennial offense was led by Cody Kessler, who is now the starting quarterback for USC.
Wilson, a 6-foot-2, 238-pound linebacker, was second on the team in tackles with 87 last year while starting all 13 games at inside linebacker for the Bulldogs. In last week’s loss to USC, Wilson led the team with 13 tackles.
While Burrell and Wilson and four others from Bakersfield headed north to Fresno State, Norris opted to go elsewhere. He said he went to a couple of USC games with Kessler, his teammate at Centennial, but wasn’t a Fresno State fan growing up.
“I talked to them, but I never really had an interest in going there,’’ he said. “I wanted to get out of California.’’
Norris was recruited to Utah and after sitting out as a redshirt in 2011 and playing mostly on special teams in 2012, he earned a starting linebacker spot in 2013 as a sophomore. He finished fifth on the team in tackles, despite missing two games with an injury.
Just like he was last year in going against Kessler at USC, Norris is looking forward to playing against Burrell again on Saturday.
Burrell, who threw only 12 passes as a backup to Derek Carr, completed 11 of 19 passes last week against USC for 92 yards with one interception. He shared time with Brandon Connette, a transfer from Duke, who only completed 7 of 17 passes for 69 yards with three interceptions.
Fresno offensive coordinator Dave Schramm, who coached at Utah for seven seasons, said earlier this week both quarterbacks will play Saturday with Burrell remaining the likely starter.
While the Utah defense received some criticism last week for allowing Idaho State to get some big plays, particularly up the middle, Norris believes the Utes have corrected the problems and will be ready for Fresno State.
“We’re really emphasizing running to the ball and getting all 11 guys around the football,’’ he said. “There’s a lot of want-to on the defense. We’re going to be ready.’’