How many will be participating in their final home game on Utah’s senior day?
There are 10 seniors listed on the roster but several others, like junior linebacker Devin Lloyd won’t be back next year as they chase opportunities in the NFL. Others are still mulling their respective futures
A group of Utes will be playing their final game at Rice-Eccles Stadium Friday (2 p.m. MST, Fox) when they host Colorado. For now, nobody knows exactly how many.
Utes on the air
Colorado (4-7, 3-5)
at No. 19 Utah (8-3, 7-1)
Friday, 2 p.m. MST
Radio: ESPN 700
There are 10 seniors listed on the roster but several others, like junior linebacker Devin Lloyd, won’t be back next year as they chase opportunities in the NFL. Others are still mulling their respective futures.
Whittingham said between 15-17 players will be honored prior to kickoff.
He added that he’s not looking ahead to next Friday’s Pac-12 Championship game in Las Vegas.
“It’s all about the seniors this week — the seniors and the juniors that are planning on moving on. We want to send those guys out the right way,” Whittingham said. “It’s important that we take first things first and not get ahead of ourselves regardless of the circumstances of the situation. We can’t sit here and worry about who we might or might not play in a couple of weeks. That’s not the point of emphasis or the focus. The focus is on the Colorado Buffaloes. … We’ve got to turn all of our attention, all our focus, all our efforts to the Colorado Buffs, which we will.”
Junior defensive end Mika Tafua, who is trying to decide whether he’ll return to the U. or not, likes how Whittingham is approaching this week.
“He always emphasizes doing things for the seniors,” he said. “This is another way that we can show our appreciation for our seniors and what they’ve done for our program. We’re just focusing on working extra hard to get another win at Rice-Eccles this week.”
Junior wide receiver Britain Covey agreed.
“I love that concept. I remember being a freshman and a sophomore and having coach Whitt talk about it like that. It inspired me to give my all,” he said. “Now that I’m one of those upperclassmen, I expect that from the freshmen. But I also appreciate that. I think it’s a really cool concept, you take care of your elders, I guess.”
What’s Covey’s future?
“I haven’t decided yet. I will go out and walk as a senior just in case,” he said. “But that’s a decision that I told my family that I’ll make before the bowl game but after the Pac-12 Championship. I just want to focus on the next couple of weeks but I will walk just in case. There are quite a few guys in that same spot that are underclassmen. Devin is leaving for sure. But there are quite a few other guys that are still talking about it.”
Last week, Lloyd accepted an invitation to play in the Reese’s Senior Bowl ahead of the NFL draft.
Lloyd, who is a finalist for the Butkus Award, appreciates his career at Utah and he acknowledged it will be hard leaving the program.
“It’s definitely going to be tough, investing so much time into this university and everything that’s gone on while I’ve been here,” he said. “I’ve matured a lot and grown a lot as a man. I’ve made so many countless memories and countless relationships that will last a lifetime. It’s definitely going to be hard but I’m really just focused on enjoying every moment I have here.”
Whittingham said some that are honored before the game Friday could return next season.
“We’ll probably have 15-17 guys walk for senior introduction. That doesn’t mean that every single one of those guys that’s a junior is definitively making the decision to move on. We could very well have some guys that go through that ceremony that decide to come back. It’s better to err on that side than not have them walk and not recognize them. In case they change their mind between now and then, I don’t want to screw things up. Some of them are still deciding. It’s not 100% set on which ones are going to walk.”
The seniors listed on the roster are Vonte Davis, Theo Howard, Keegan Markgraf, Brandon McKinney, Viane Moala, Ali’i Nuimatalolo, Bamidele Olaseni, Hauati Pututau, Sire Woods and Tyrone Young-Smith.
This senior class has dealt with last year’s shortened COVID-19 season and the tragic deaths of Ty Jordan and Aaron Lloyd, among other setbacks.
“We’ve had outstanding leadership. We’ve needed it. We’ve been through some absolutely horrific events,” Whittingham said. “The leaders have stepped up and I couldn’t be more proud of how they’ve handled things and kept things together. That’s the mark of a really good football team, is the leadership. Right now, we’re playing pretty good football and I attribute a great deal of that to the leaders on the football team.”
Davis has played with multiple injuries this season.
“He is a tough kid. He’s a guy that’s come so far since joining our program. He’s had so much development take place,” Whittingham said of him. “He’s battling more than the hand injury. He’s out there every single week. Sometimes he can’t make it through the whole game due to the things he has going on. But he’s a guy that has a lot of guts and toughness to him.”
No doubt, Utah will be motivated by playing for its seniors Friday when it faces CU.
“It means sending the seniors off right and making sure that they leave Rice-Eccles pretty much undefeated (at home) their senior season,” said quarterback Cam Rising. “That’s our goal and that’s our approach.”