Facebook Twitter

Utah Utes football: Freshman safety looks ready for prime time

SHARE Utah Utes football: Freshman safety looks ready for prime time
Defensive backs Brandon Burton, left, and Brian Blechen practice on Wednesday.

Defensive backs Brandon Burton, left, and Brian Blechen practice on Wednesday.

Laura Seitz, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Perhaps Brian Blechen was destined to be in the spotlight. In his media guide profile at the University of Utah, it's noted that the Moorpark, Calif., product was born during Monday Night Football on Sept. 30, 1991.

Now, less than a week into his first training camp with the Utes, Blechen is ticketed for prime time. He currently tops the depth chart at strong safety. It's a rare accomplishment for any true freshman, at any position, on an established defense like the one at Utah.

"It is," acknowledged safeties coach Morgan Scalley. "He's someone that has the size and athleticism to do good things for us. Right now, it's just picking things up schematically."

The 6-foot-2, 208-pound Blechen moved to the top spot at strong safety when senior Justin Taplin-Ross was moved to free safety to capitalize on his range.

"We wouldn't put (Blechen) in there if we didn't feel like his learning curve was that of someone who could take care of business," Scalley said before adding that Blechen is both physically and mentally capable of getting the job done.

The key now is getting him as many full speed and live reps as possible. Scalley said such work is priceless against the Utah offense and quarterbacks such as Jordan Wynn and Terrance Cain.

While it remains to be seen how things work out before the Sept. 2 season-opener against Pittsburgh, Blechen will be given every opportunity to hold onto the starting job.

Scalley explained that he'll need to do three things — take care of business on and off the field, know the defense and make plays.

"If you only do two of the three, then it's tough to play here," Scalley said. "So you've got to take care of all three, and he's doing that right now."

Blechen isn't taking anything for granted.

"Every day you've got to earn it because you can lose it that fast," said the former high school quarterback and linebacker.

The opportunity to be a starting safety in college is motivating Blechen to keep working hard.

"Things could change by the first game, but it could also stay there," he said. "So I try to do as much as I can for the team right now. We'll just see where things go out and get ready for Pitt."

Blechen, though, is well on course to being on the field that night.

"He's picking things up very quickly. He's got a lot of physical ability. That's very apparent," said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham. "That's an ongoing competition for that safety spot opposite Justin Taplin-Ross, and right now Brian is emerging as the guy. Now that's not to say that couldn't change because it's a daily process. But right now, he's doing a nice job."

When told of his elevation up the depth chart earlier this week, Blechen admits to being excited.

"I knew it was a chance to prove myself," he said. "But at the same time — the way we work with the safeties — we could switch."

Thus, Blechen continued, there's no time to celebrate.

"Just keep working," he said.

e-mail: dirk@desnews.com