SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Sports) – There are plenty of talented players on the Utes this season, but as Utah opened training camp on Wednesday, Manny Bowen was not one of them.
The projected starting linebacker and transfer from Penn State, told the team yesterday that he was quitting football to pursue a business opportunity, leaving the Utes with a big hole to fill on defense.
“It surprised us completely because there wasn’t any hint or anything out of the ordinary all throughout summer training,” head coach Kyle Whittingham said. “So, we’ll just move forward. If he was going to hang up the spikes, it’s better to do it right now at the get go, so we can start investing the reps with the other guys.”
“Manny is a great kid, a great young man,” said Utah defensive coordinator Morgan Scalley. “He decided it was in his best interest to move on and we wish him well. But the bottom line is if we’re thinking about him, we’re wasting time right now. So, we’re moving on and we’ve got guys to fill that spot.”
Guys like former Brighton High star Sione Lund and sophomore Devin Lloyd, who will have the best chance to play alongside starter Francis Bernard.
“We love Francis and we love what Devin Lloyd brings to the table,” Scalley said. “But that’s our job as coaches. We can’t sit here, whine and complain about it. We’ve got good players and it’s our job to coach them up.”
The Utes two most important offensive players, quarterback Tyler Huntley and running back Zack Moss, are both coming off season-ending injuries, but they are now fully healthy with no restrictions.
“I’m 100 percent, full go,” said Huntley, who missed the last five games of the 2018 season because of a shoulder injury. “It feels pretty good. It always feels good to be out here playing football.”
“They’re both completely healthy, they’ve got all their weight back,” Whittingham said. “Zack is up to 220 [pounds] and has no pain in his knee. Tyler is over 200 pounds and looks and is moving better than he ever has. So those two guys, in my opinion, are poised for big senior seasons.”
As for all the preseason hype, the Utes, who were picked to win the Pac-12 championship, are not getting caught up in it.
“It’s cool to have all that in the media and things like that,” said Moss, who rushed for 1,086 yards in just eight games last season. “But this team still at the heart and the core has an underdog mentality.”
“We’re not worried about the hype,” added Julian Blackmon, who has moved from cornerback to safety. “You can’t be worried about it, because it’s just going to affect us in the long run. So, it all depends on the work that we put in right now. I think in my opinion that we can be as great of a defense that has ever come through.”
Besides, it’s nice to have say good things about you, rather than talk negatively, right?
“They’re going to talk regardless,” Huntley said.
There are 29 more days of talk and work until the season opener against BYU.