The Utah football team got down to serious business today with its first practice in southern California as it prepares for next week's Freedom Bowl game against Arizona.
The Utes flew down to Orange County Sunday afternoon with a contingent of 72 players. One player missing is starting linebacker Jeff Kirkman, who broke his ankle late in Saturday's practice in Salt Lake."That's a real blow because he's such a fine player," said Ute coach Ron McBride of the former Clearfield High star.
For Kirkman, it's another in a string of injuries that have plagued him throughout his Ute career. In 1992, he suffered a knee injury in the season finale against BYU and missed the Copper Bowl. Last year, he hurt his shoulder early in the season and sat out the season as a redshirt.
Kirkman will be replaced by Marcus Woods, who started several games early in the season for the Utes.
Otherwise the Utes are pretty healthy for the bowl game. Two more players, receiver David Kozlowski and defensive end Nate Kia, will miss the game because of injuries suffered late in the season. Backup offensive lineman Danny Davis is also out with a broken ankle.
McBride said freshman running back Juan Johnson should finally be ready to play. Johnson saw little action since suffering a hamstring injury in early October.
The Utes will practice every morning this week at Golden West Junior College. Afternoons will be spent doing such things as visiting Knotts Berry Farm, Disneyland and the Orangewood Home for Abused Children. They'll get Christmas Day off and have a light practice Monday before the game on Tuesday.