Whittingham has the line on his mind

Want to see the unflappable Kyle Whittingham get a look of concern on his face? Mention Utah's situation at offensive tackle. Factor out two outstanding starters who are now in the NFL and factor in a quarterback with a history of injury and you have one concerned coach.

So Whittingham put a not-so-fine point on what his top four priorities were heading into preseason camp.

  1. Find an offensive tackle.

  2. Find an offensive tackle.

  3. Find an offensive tackle.

  4. Find an offensive tackle.

Two starters, two backups.

"That's priority one, two, three and four for us right now," Whittingham said. "Those tackle positions are as important as anything else we've got going on."

Finding steady replacements for John Cullen and Tony Bergstrom will go a long way toward helping to keep quarterback Jordan Wynn healthy while also, Whittingham hopes, continuing to build on the solid season of running back John White (1,519 yards, 15 touchdowns).

But it's no easy task. Bergstrom was first-team all-conference at right tackle and Cullen was second-team at the left spot.

"We've been blessed to have pretty good tackles," Whittingham said. "But right now, I guess you could say, we're starting over at that position."

The post-spring, pre-fall depth chart lists Percy Taumoelau, who appeared in six games on the line last season, and Kala Friel one-and-two respectively at left tackle. Friel is a former walk-on who received a scholarship when he returned from his LDS church mission. Redshirt freshman Daniel Nielson is slotted first at right tackle, though senior Miles Mason started in 11 games last year (10 at left guard, one at left tackle). But depth charts are fluid.

"I felt like we had some guys really emerge in the spring as candidates," Whittingham said. "... The starters won't be solidified until well into camp after we've had the opportunity to get a good look at the incoming recruits."

Among those recruits are JC transfers Marc Pouvave and Carlos Lozano and prep recruits Hiva Lutui and Jeremiah Poutasi. That means there are seven players to fill those two starting spots and two backups.

Whittingham described the line as "solid" on the interior and at center, where Tevita Stevens returns as a Rimington Trophy candidate and Sam Brenner is starting for the second year at right guard.