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UTAH: 6 PLAYERS WITH STARTING EXPERIENCE RETURN, BUT MCBRIDE IS STILL WORRIED.

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Every one of Utah's four projected starting defensive backs has starting experience from a year ago, as do a couple of the Utes' backups.

So why does coach Ron McBride say his secondary is one of the biggest question marks on the entire team?Perhaps because after last year's nightmarish experience with injuries to his defensive backs, McBride is acting just a little bit jittery about his secondary.

The Utes had an unbelievable string of injuries to defensive backs in '93, losing six starters. By the end of the year they were using a couple of their running backs, including starter Keith Williams, in the defensive backfield, as well as a true freshman who never played defensive back in high school. One more injury and Ute coaches were ready to draft a couple of secretaries from the football office.

"Even though they're all back, that's one of our biggest question marks," said McBride.

On paper, anyway, it looks like an excellent group. In the hospital it will be a different story.

Edwin Garrette, an injury redshirt, is slated to start at right corner, with Adolph County, who started some games before getting hurt, backing him up. The other corner will be manned by Kareem Leary, who also went down early with an injury.

Harold Lusk is back at free safety after switching from quarterback when he was desperately needed on the other side. Lusk, whom McBride says could play anywhere on the field, turned out to be a natural at the free saftey spot and will be the Utes' "centerfielder" again.

At strong safety is Ernest Boyd, who led the team and the WAC with six interceptions while playing cornerback. He was also the team's fourth leading tackler on the year with 73 tackles.

His backup is projected to be Jeff Kirkman, who has been plagued with injuries throughout his Ute career. The Clearfield High product has been pegged as a starter since his sophomore season, but has been felled by knee and shoulder surgery. If he ever gets completely healthy, he'll be a big asset.

Most of the other reserves, except for four-year squadman Jimmy Pryor, are inexperienced. A couple of local true freshmen, Cottonwood's Cal Beck and Northridge's Brandon Dart, have looked good in the preseason. Keith Harrison, a Prop 42 sophomore, and Clarence Lawson, a freshman from Las Vegas, may both see action as reserves.