SALT LAKE CITY — Wide receiver Dres Anderson, safety Brian Blechen, defensive end Nate Orchard, kicker Andy Phillips and offensive guard Junior Salt were elected to be the Utah Utes’ captains this season.
“I thought the team did a great job selecting them,” said coach Kyle Whittingham, who added that a 12-player leadership council was also chosen.
Although only four captains are allowed to participate in a pregame coin toss, Whittingham explained that the Utes will rotate who does it. They opted to have five captains this season, he said, because the players came to him and wanted a special teams representative to join the traditional leadership model of two from the offense and two from the defense.
“I feel like we’ve got a good core,” Anderson said. “We’re all focused. We all want the same goal.”
The senior noted that it means a lot to be one of the elected leaders of the team.
“I know a lot of guys look up to me and I’ve been doing my thing in this program for a long time,” he said. “So it’s an honor.”
Blechen also considered it an honor — as well as a “privilege” — to be chosen.
“There’s no place I’d rather be my senior year but to be in a position of leadership. I’ve been around. I’ve got experience,” Blechen said. “Definitely, I want to be someone heading up our campaign to turn the season around, get to a bowl game and ultimately a Pac-12 championship. So I’m excited.”
Even though Phillips admitted to being a bit speechless about it, he expressed gratitude for being in the role he’s in— calling it an honor.
“I love my teammates,” he said. “I have awesome teammates.”
Phillips, a 25-year-old sophomore, added that he has worked hard and wanted to eliminate the stereotype that kickers were weak and not really part of a team.
The Utes chose another older player to serve as a captain as well. Salt is 26. The senior offensive lineman said he’s blessed to play the sport and be among a great group of men in the program.
“I continue to learn from these guys and we learn from each other,” Salt said. “That’s what it is about — this brotherhood — and that’s what I love about this team.”
Orchard was equally humble about being chosen to serve as a captain, echoing many thoughts shared by the others.
“It means everything,” he said. “It’s an honor and a privilege. To know that these guys look up to me in that way, to take on the responsibility, means a lot.”
NO CAPTAIN WILSON: Junior quarterback Travis Wilson is back, but not as a team captain as he was last season.
“There’s probably six guys on each side of the ball that really could have been in that role,” Whittingham said. “But the players selected who they selected and it’s a vote by your peers and we go strictly by that vote.”
THE OBJECTIVE: After Saturday morning’s practice at Rice-Eccles Stadium, Whittingham acknowledged that pretty much all of the players are “hurting in some way, shape or form” after three weeks of practice.
“They’re all bumped, bruised, banged up. Fingers are sore, shoulders are sore. It’s just the nature of going through a camp situation,” Whittingham said. “But they’re all starting to get healthier now and some of those bumps and bruises are going away. The legs are starting to come back. We’re still five days out. We think we’re right on track as far as being ready and being fresh. That’s our objective — to be ready and fresh simultaneously.”
BACK AT IT: After being noticeably absent during the media observation period of practice for a couple of days, Orchard was out on the field Saturday.
“I feel great. I’m back, I’m fine, full go — body feels good,” Orchard said. “So it’s good to be back out here.”
On Friday, Whittingham described Orchard’s undisclosed ailment as fine and just a “little thing going on.”
Orchard has appeared in 37 straight games since joining the Utes in 2011.
“Never missed a game and I don’t plan on missing one,” he said.