Heel-ing up

By and

While the No. 10 U football team moved in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches poll, the players had their first bona fide break of the football season with no practice Friday and a free weekend.

And while the rest of the teams in the Mountain West Conference were battering each other, the Utes had an opportunity to rest and get healthy.

Senior defensive lineman Sione Pouha said the bye week was well timed, considering how banged up several players on the team were.

“I think the break came at the right time,” Pouha said. “It gave our team a chance to get better [from the injuries].”

With a roster full of injured players, the Utes definitely needed the bye. And with most of the injuries on the defensive side of the ball, head coach Urban Meyer said that if the Utes had to play a game last weekend, then they would have been in serious trouble.

After a week off, players like All-American candidate Morgan Scalley were able to take some time to get better from the bumps and bruises of the regular season.

Players with more serious injuries, such as Jonathan Fanene, Eric Weddle and Ryan Smith had a chance to heal their wounds before entering the final six games of the year. It is still uncertain as to whether or not Smith will be ready for Saturday’s game, but the rest of the defense should be ready.

Pouha admitted that he might have eaten one too many chocolate cakes over the break, but that the bye was mostly good for the team. Pouha said that his biggest problem during the bye week was the fact that he wasn’t playing in a football game.

“I don’t really like bye weeks,” Pouha said.

He said that the excitement of watching the college games over the weekend almost caused him to break a dish when eating out with his wife because he wanted so badly to be on the field.

“This is my senior season,” Pouha said. “So at least this is my last bye week.”

Meyer, however, was concerned not with chocolate cakes, but with the impact a sudden break can have in the middle of a successful season.

“We had it going, we had it rolling, and then you have two days off,” Meyer said. “And when you’re dealing with 18- year-olds, you never know what that might do.”

Meyer admitted that Fall Break could have a negative impact on the attitude and preparation of the team. Meyer said that it was his job to deal with the “paranoia,” and that he would do his best to get the team prepared during the next week.

“I thought our preparation for Air Force and New Mexico was right on the dot,” Meyer said. “But I don’t know about this one yet. I worry.”

Meyer said the practices at the beginning of the week will be intense, considering the potential for a change in attitude, but the players seemed ready for a hardcore practice after the break.

“A couple of us came in Sunday and started training and practicing,” Pouha said. “I think we’ll be ready.”

Pouha said that he knew the coaches would be particularly tough in the next few days, but that the break gave the team ample energy to deal with a harder practice regimen.

The Utes will play host to North Carolina Saturday night.

[email protected]