Utah football: Who will be participating in Senior Night vs. Stanford?

Senior Night isn’t what it used to be in college sports.

One reason is that the NCAA has granted all student athletes an extra year of eligibility to compensate for the 2020-21 athletic year that was affected by the pandemic. In addition, some already know that they will forfeit eligibility to play at the next level.

“If you’re inclined (to walk), go ahead and let yourself be recognized. The worst thing is you come back and get recognized again next year.” – Kyle Whittingham on the advice he gives his players

As Utah prepares to host Senior Night Saturday (8 p.m. MST, ESPN) at Rice-Eccles Stadium ahead of its game against Stanford, knowing exactly which players, including non-seniors, will be honored is a mystery.

“It’s our last home game – ‘Senior Night’. We will honor our seniors as well as some underclassmen. It will be an opportunity for our seniors to be recognized one last time,” said coach Kyle Whittingham. “We’ve had a good run at home for the past few years and we need to continue that. We seem to be playing very well at Rice-Eccles.

“A big part of that is our fans, they do a great job of supporting us – the MUSS and the band and everything we do there. I look forward to these seniors being able to play at Rice-Eccles for the last time.”

When asked which specific players will be recognized, Whittingham said: “You will find out on Saturday.”

Among the seniors included on the list are Dalton Kincaid; wide receivers Solomon Enis and Jaylen Dixon; defense attorneys Devin Kaufusi and Gabe Reid; linebacker Mohamoud Diabate; and Security RJ Hubert.

Junior quarterback Cam Rising is expected to be one of the non-seniors to be honored on Saturday, as will tight end Brant Kuithe, who suffered a season-ending injury in late September. Both could be NFL-tied, but both still have eligibility.

Kuithe only made four appearances this season before his injury and could return for a sixth season if he so chooses.

Then there’s second cornerback Clark Phillips, who is predicted to be the first-round NFL draft pick next spring.

“Everyone has been here for a year longer. Some guys have dual majors and a year of eligibility left and they get a little nervous,” Whittingham said. “Probably next year and the year after that it will be the same and then it will go back to a normal situation. Since everyone gets that free year in 2020, we had eight underclassmen last year. It will probably be the same number again this year.”

Whittingham encourages those players in limbo to attend Senior Night.

“If you’re inclined (to walk), go ahead and let yourself be recognized,” he said. “The worst thing is you come back and get recognized again next year. We’re going to have some guys this year who got awards last year. … There’s nothing sacred about a guy being recognized and then staying. We just want to make sure the guys who leave get the credit they deserve.”

As usual, Whittingham dedicates this week to the seniors.

Utah defensive tackle Devin Kaufusi pressures Ohio State quarterback CJ Stroud during the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California.

Utah’s defensive tackle Devin Kaufusi puts pressure on Ohio State quarterback CJ Stroud during the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif. on Saturday, January 1, 2022.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

“This week is all about the seniors. That’s the focus and the whole focus is to send these guys in the right direction,” he said. “That is our goal every year and this year is no different. We have spoken in team meetings that everyone has done their best to ensure these guys end their careers at Rice-Eccles on a positive note.”

One of the seniors to be honored on Saturday is Kaufusi, a team captain.

The BYU transfer has had quite a journey in his college career. He signed with the Cougars in 2015, served a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, played two seasons at BYU, and then transferred to Utah, where he was reunited with close friend Britain Covey.

Kaufusi brought a lot to the program, Whittingham said, particularly off the field.

“Devin contributes to this in many ways. He didn’t get as much playing time as I’m sure he wanted this year. His snaps are below. But his leadership – he’s a captain. That tells you what his teammates think of him,” Whittingham said. “He was elected captain at the start of the season.

“He has a great attitude. He’s just a great guy on our team. He’s an excellent teammate. He’s a guy who supports everyone and never complains. Like I said, his game time probably isn’t what he hoped it would be, but he’s all-in. He does everything we ask of him.”

Utes on the air

Stanford (3-6, 1-6)

at No. 13 Utah (7-2, 5-1)

Saturday 8pm MST

Rice Eccles Stadium


Radio: ESPN 700

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