SALT LAKE CITY — 'Twas the night before “Pro Day” when Utah starting center Lo Falemaka learned that he had officially received a medical extension from the NCAA. Had last Wednesday’s news not been positive, the 6-foot-5, 295-pound offensive lineman would have had just hours to prep for the NFL scouts in town to check out prospective draftees.
However, things turned out as expected. After practice on March 27, offensive line coach Jim Harding announced to the position group that Falemaka had been granted another year of eligibility. He encouraged everyone to congratulate the senior.
“I was just like ‘thank you so much,’” Falemaka said. “It just felt nice.”
Falemaka, who played in all 13 games last season, added that it was kind of refreshing to have “a lot of stress off of my shoulders.”
Although assured an extension would most likely be granted (he played in just two games in 2015 because of injury) Falemaka acknowledged feeling in the back of his mind that his collegiate career could be over. The former Cottonwood High standout was allowed to practice with the Utes this spring while awaiting the NCAA’s decision.
Utah coach Kyle Whittingham applauded the good news that came.
“We knew we had a strong case to get him back. But nothing’s ever a done deal until it’s a done deal,” he said. “We got the notification that he, indeed, won the waiver. That was a big plus for us."
Whittingham said that Falemaka is a leader in the offensive line room and on the team as a whole.
Offensive coordinator Troy Taylor had similar thoughts.
“He’s a huge part of our offense and our team and especially our front. It all starts with him,” Taylor said. “We were expecting (the extension), but we’re relieved to get it.”
Junior quarterback Tyler Huntley also weighed in on Falemaka. Huntley said that it feels great to have his center back for another season.
“He’s a key part to our offensive line and our team,” Huntley said. “So it’s great to have him back right in the middle.”
CAMP UPDATE: Whittingham noted that Tuesday’s practice was physical and added that the Utes got in some goal-line work that they “desperately needed.” A less-physical practice is set for Thursday with a scrimmage set for Saturday (10 a.m., Rice-Eccles Stadium). The latter, Whittingham continued, is probably the most important scrimmage of the spring.
COVEY ON HAND: Wide receiver Britain Covey, who recently returned from an LDS Church mission, watched practice from the sidelines. He’ll rejoin the team for summer conditioning.
“I can’t wait until he’s around full-time,” Whittingham said.
CHOOSING THE RED?: Former BYU linebacker Francis Bernard has watched practices throughout the spring.
“He’s certainly someone we have a lot of interest in. He has interest in us,” Whittingham said. “He’s going through the process now of deciding what’s best for his future. He’s got some academic work to do. But he’s a tremendous football player. I know that much.”