Utah running backs room coping with adversity, on and off the field
Tavion Thomas rushed 16 times for 59 yards and a touchdown against SDSU; he did so with a heavy heart as he is dealing with a death in his family
With Chris Curry out for the season due to an ankle injury, Utah’s running backs room will have to adjust.
Curry suffered the injury in the third quarter of the No. 13 Utes’ 35-7 walloping of San Diego State last Saturday night at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
Coach Kyle Whittingham confirmed Monday that Thomas is still Utah’s No. 1 running back.
Thomas rushed 16 times for 59 yards and a touchdown against SDSU but he did so with a heavy heart as he is dealing with a death in his family.
“Tavion’s had a really emotional time this last week. It’s been a struggle for him,” Whittingham said. “We’re supporting him all that we can and we’re doing everything we can to help him through it. Anytime you lose a very, very close member of your family, someone that essentially raised you, it’s tough. Traumatic.”
Despite the tragedy in his family, Thomas decided to play last Saturday.
“He’s a guy that’s committed to the team. He was grieving and it was tough. He did opt to play,” Whittingham said. “He wasn’t quite his usual self. You could tell that he wasn’t himself as far as his personality.”
Whittingham said had Thomas decided not to play, he “definitely would have allowed him to skip it if that’s what he wanted to do. But he didn’t want to do that. He wanted to play and be part of the team. He felt like that was going to be what was best for him.”
Meanwhile, Glover is expected to see an increase in playing time while the Utes are looking for a fourth back — likely Ricky Parks or Charlie Vincent. The team typically travels with four running backs.
“It does change the dynamic a little bit at running back. Tavion’s still the lead guy but Jaylon Glover becomes more prominent,” Whittingham said. “Also it elevates Ricky Parks and Charlie Vincent. Certainly it puts Jaylon Glover more in the forefront.”
Glover made his Utah debut in the second half of the 73-7 win over Southern Utah. He ran nine times for 53 yards and a touchdown.
“It was a surreal moment. You’ve got to act like you’ve been there before. The first of many and I’m excited to keep going,” Glover said after the game. “Ultimately, I know I’m a young guy and I’ve got a lot of years ahead of me, so my job is to stay healthy and stay ready.”
At that time, Whittingham mentioned that Glover would get his opportunity to shine.
“Jaylon Glover is a talented kid. Right now, he’s our fourth back. We’re blessed at that position. We have a good room with the running backs,” he said. “He didn’t get any snaps (in the Florida game) but he made the most of his snaps this week. … Jaylon’s a guy that we have a lot of belief in. Chris Curry and Tavion Thomas are obviously ahead of him right now, but Jaylon, his time will come.”
Now that Curry is sidelined for the season, Thomas will be counted on even more. He’s carried the ball 50 times for 222 yards and four touchdowns in 2022.
“Tavion’s going to have to become more of a factor,” Whittingham said.
The coach added that Curry is expected to make a full recovery and play next season.
“It’s too bad about Chris. He’s a great teammate and a great kid,” Whittingham said. “The silver lining, I guess, is that he’ll be back next year. Oddly enough, he had the same injury in high school on the other ankle. We expect a full return to health and to be 100% ready to play football again.”
Utes on the air
No. 13 Utah (2-1) at Arizona State (1-2)
Saturday, 8:30 p.m. MDT
Sun Devil Stadium
Radio: ESPN 700