Utah’s Zack Moss named No. 1 RB after injury to Armand Shyne
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Sophomore Zack Moss is officially the No. 1 running back for the Utah Utes after a tight camp competition with Armand Shyne ended with a long-term injury to Shyne.
The junior went down during a team period Saturday in what coach Kyle Whittingham called a fluke. Utah does not typically disclose details of injuries that are not season-ending.
That leaves the 5-foot-10, 210-pound Moss of Hialeah Gardens, Florida, as the successor to last year’s 1,400-yard rusher, Joe Williams.
Quarterback Troy Williams said he can see the change in Moss’ mindset from his freshman year.
“I think he kind of figured he’ll be a lot more included this year,” Troy Williams said. “You can tell by the way he’s practicing, the way he picks up blitzes, (runs) routes, attention to detail when he’s lined up in the slot. He runs hard and he can also pull away from you. He’s a powerful runner. Good set of hands. He can also get those fourth-and-1s, fourth-and-inches for you.”
Moss started three games last season and his 382 rushing yards were second on the team. He benefited from an odd situation where Joe Williams retired from the team for a stretch during the season then Shyne went down with a season-ending leg injury after replacing Williams. Moss missed three games himself due to injuries in what has been a snake-bitten position in the last year.
The Shyne-Moss competition was neck-and-next this fall and coach Kyle Whittingham said Moss had recently grabbed a slight edge.
Moss said he feels no pressure and has been preparing for a heavier workload all offseason. He said he has matured and now knows what it takes to be a Division I athlete — extra work after practice, eating right, drinking more water, better conditioning and spending more time in the training room to keep his body healthy. Moss added he’s a more patient runner now.
“You’ve got to set up blocks,” Moss said. “You can’t just go and think you’re going to run through 11 guys at all times. You’ve got a team around you. Just being more patient, letting blocks develop. Keeping my footwork with great technique. Creating great velocity between the holes and running (behind) my pads.”
With Shyne out, Devonta’e Henry-Cole slides into the backup role while Jordan Howard and Troy McCormick continue to compete to be No. 3.
Utah’s run game will look much different in 2017 with the hiring of new offensive coordinator Troy Taylor. He brings a pass-first spread scheme that should keep defenses from loading up against the run. The changes, however, may keep the Utes from having a 1,200-yard rusher for the first time since 2013. Utah has been a run-heavy team under Whittingham and has had just one season without a 1,000-yard rusher since joining the Pac-12 in 2011.
“May not end up getting as many carries, but we need the same efficiency,” Whittingham said. “And that’s really measured in yards-per-carry. We like our backs to have five yards per carry. Whether it’s on 20 carries or 35.”
The backs may get fewer rushes, but should catch the ball more as Taylor routinely moves them around the formation. But pass protection from the position is even more important if the scheme is going to work.
“He’s a pretty well-rounded guy,” Taylor said of Moss. “He’s continuing to develop his hands and route-running. They’ve got to be able to step up and be physical and not compromise our pass protection. ... And they have to know what they’re doing. There are a lot of moving parts in this offense for the running back.”
NOTES: Junior college transfer Josh Nurse will play safety after being tested on both sides of the ball during camp. Whittingham said the decision ultimately came down to good depth at wide receiver versus little at safety. Strong safety Chase Hansen, 2016′s leading tackler, is out indefinitely with an undisclosed injury and Utah only has four scholarship safeties on the roster. The 6-foot-4, 195-pound transfer from Blinn College was a highly anticipated recruit due to his length and athleticism. ... Utah announced junior Alani Havili-Katoa has moved from defensive tackle to the offensive line and sophomore Jake Jackson has switched from linebacker to tight end.
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