Utah sophomore Sean Smith is adjusting well to his new position.

The former running back, who later switched to wide receiver, is off to a good start as a cornerback.

Smith intercepted two passes in last week's season opener at Oregon State.

"In a way it's like a bittersweet deal," he said. " ... I had a good game and stuff like that, but it's hard to like celebrate it because we lost."

Smith made a career-high four tackles, including three solo stops, in the 24-7 setback.

"It's kind of tough," he said. "But I was very excited to have the interceptions. I'm looking forward to making more plays."

Smith is the Utes' starter at right cornerback, filling a vacancy left by the graduation of All-American Eric Weddle. Ironically, Smith became the first Utah player to have two interceptions in a game since Weddle did so last season in a loss to Oregon State.

"He did a good job," said U. cornerbacks coach Aaron Alford, who noted that Smith's athleticism and 6-foot-3, 217-pound frame played a role in last week's interceptions.

Smith's first pick came in zone coverage and the second in a man-to-man situation. The latter involved Smith jumping up to make a catch before it could reach a much shorter receiver.

"Everyone saw what he can do," said senior safety Steve Tate, who credited Smith's enthusiasm for keeping him loose and on his toes. "He's a great athlete."

And a versatile one at that.

"His physical talents are what is really going to (get) him through," Alford said as Smith develops techniques associated with the position.

"Corners are not always perfect. It often comes down to physical ability to get back into position and make plays."

Smith acknowledged making plays is what he's all about. The same, he continued, can be said of Utah's entire secondary.

Though somewhat young and inexperienced, Smith said the cornerbacks and safeties are determined to get the job done — even in light of losing talents like Weddle and Casey Evans to graduation.

"They have great expectations for themselves," Alford said.

Oregon State's passing attack was limited to 12-of-30 accuracy and 129 yards. Nickel back R.J. Stanford was credited with two pass breakups. He teamed with starting safeties Tate and Joe Dale, as well as cornerbacks Smith and Brice McCain, on a secondary that made 15 tackles.

The success, however, wasn't enough.

"I can't stand losing," said Alford, who noted there's still a lot of things to improve upon.

The next test comes Saturday against an Air Force team that likes to throw the ball more than in years past. In head coach Troy Calhoun's debut, a 34-3 win over South Carolina State last Saturday, the traditionally option-oriented Falcons completed 11 passes for 176 yards.

"I wish we had 2-3 games to scout them. It was different to see an Air Force quarterback drop back and throw. But Shaun Carney is a good thrower," Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said. "We judge quarterbacks based on their efficiency and he was at 150. That's very good. He's an efficient quarterback."

EXTRA POINTS: The Utes moved practice to Rice-Eccles Stadium after heavy rain soaked the grass fields earlier in the day ... Whittingham said the extra days of preparation after last Thursday's game at Oregon State came at a very timely point following the injuries to Matt Asiata and Brian Johnson. "The work this week has been very good," he said. ... Crews have been busy installing new signage and a large LED board at the stadium.


MWC opener

Air Force (1-0) at Utah (0-1)

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Saturday, 4 p.m.

Rice-Eccles Stadium

TV: The Mtn.; Radio: 700AM


E-mail: dirk@desnews.com

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