Back to back

Here’s a switch: The Utah receiving corps, durable and reliable throughout spring and fall camp, is hurting. Two are sidelined. But the running backs, two No. 1 running backs, both of whom have battled injury problems throughout their collegiate careers, have been both healthy and productive this season.

Mike Liti and Darryl Poston combined for 140 yards last week, each averaging more than six yards per carry as the Utes routed Northern Arizona, 45-7. Liti earned the start in week one (and took the bulk of the carries), while Poston took over with the first team last week. That, however, doesn’t indicate that either has a leg up on the starting job. The rotating starting lineup is simply part of the plan-one that the Utes will continue to employ, barring injury or other unforeseen developments.

It was a different story last year. Quinton Ganther was the clear-cut No. 1 guy, as his workhorse style was utilized to wear down opposing defenses over the course of ballgames. This year, such duties are being split between the two thus far-a development that works just fine for Whittingham.

“Either way. If we get 150 yards from one guy, or 75 each from two, it’s the same difference,” Whittingham said. “As long as we get the end result.”

Of course, just because both backs are running well at the moment doesn’t mean that won’t change as the season goes along. Whittingham has long stipulated that, if one player or the other clearly establishes himself over the other, the coaching staff won’t hesitate to rearrange the depth chart.

“It’s been kind of how we thought,” Whittigham said. “Neither one, at least at this point, has separated himself from the other. If and when that happens, then we’ll skew the carries accordingly.”

Having a competitive edge is par for the course for college athletes, but both Ute backs seem to be comfortable with the current arrangement.

“I’m totally comfortable with the team. What it comes down to is winning the game,” Poston said. “If we can produce six yards per carry and not even lose a breath-I mean, we’re not even tired out there-it’s a good thing.”

Liti, who leads the team with 125 yards through two games, had what he and Whittingham called his best training camp this year, and has expressed enthusiasm at being given the opportunity to start in his fourth season at the U. Prior to this season, he had battle injury trouble that forced him to redshirt the 2004 season.

For Poston, getting the chance to play a major role for the first time Saturday night was an emotional experience.

“It’s been a blessing,” Poston said. “Coming out in practice and actually…you listen to the coaches and they explain what to do, but you truly don’t understand it until it comes to a game-time situation.”

It’s been a long road to a co-starting job for Poston, who played four games for USC in 2001 but has transferred and battled injury problems-including a season-ending knee injury in 2004-since then. But in his first start last week, Poston had a career-high 72 yards and a touchdown, and has firmly established himself as one of the most dangerous weapons on the U offense.

“Saturday, I realized everything that (running backs coach Dave) Schramm was saying was to the point, exactly to the T,” Poston said. It feels good to be healthy, but ultimately it feels good to actually contribute to the team. This is my sixth year (in college football) and what, I had maybe 20 carries? Basically, I felt as if I was a waste and a waste of a scholarship.”

Liti and Poston look to take on the Utah State run defense Saturday evening at 6 p.m.

Utah running back Darryl Poston rushes past Northern Arizona’s Adam Wright early in Saturday’s game at Rice-Eccles Stadium. Poston rushed for 72 yards and scored one touchdown.