Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham announced a trio of major news bits Tuesday after Utah football practice.
SALT LAKE CITY–Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham announced a trio of major news bits Tuesday after Utah football practice: Utah senior running back Joe Williams has opted to retire from playing football, defensive end Kylie Fitts is out for the season, and Cory Butler-Byrd has been reinstated to game play for the Utes.
Joe Williams retired from football this week, saying the game has taken a physical toll on him over the years, and was looking out for his future wellbeing. He has played the game since age 6, and is now a senior at the University of Utah.
After a 2015 season filled with ball security issues, Williams returned for the Utes in 2016 determined to fix his on-field problems, but lost a fumble in each of the Utes’ first two games. He was placed on the running back depth chart behind Zack Moss and Troy McCormick on Monday.
“His body is just worn out,” said Whittingham. “Nothing to do with playing time, nothing to do with any bad feelings. He’s leaving on good terms. I think you’ll notice in some games, he’s just not the same guy. He’s got some things that are really bothering him physically, so he’s going to retire, and we wish him well.”
Williams said the running back competition had nothing to do with his decision, and has been mulling it over in his mind for two to three months. After Saturday’s game, he wanted to wait over the weekend to see how his body healed–it didn’t to his liking; he decided to step away from the game early this week. Whittingham said he’ll be around the team, but won’t be playing.
“Football… has caught up with me,” Williams said. “I don’t want it to be detrimental five years from now and give me complications. It’s the right decision. I’ll miss it, of course. Just not playing with these guys, we’re all family here and I love these boys to death, but it’s for the best interest and I’m going to be happy with my decision down the road.”
The Utes will now look to McCormick and true freshman Moss for primary running back duties, with junior college transfer Armand Shyne ready to contribute as well.
Fitts Out For Season
Star defensive end Kylie Fitts played with a foot injury in the first half Saturday’s game against BYU. “That’s a big blow,” said Whittingham. “He’s one of our best players. [The injury] is way more extensive than we thought when we got the initial report, so unfortunately, he is done for the year,” said Whittingham.
Fitts played about 13 snaps as a freshman at UCLA, then transferred during his sophomore year to Utah, and lost the year of eligibility due to NCAA transfer rules. He played large portions of 2015 for the Utes, starting partway through the season after Hunter Dimick was hurt, and made a name for himself in the vaunted Utah defensive line.
“He’s only played one year out of his five-year clock,” Whittingham said on ESPN700’s Kyle Whittingham Coach’s Show on Tuesday night. “Hopefully the NCAA will see that and give him an opportunity to get one more year back…If our compliance office can’t get it done, it can’t be done…If you look at it, one season out of five, that’s not fair for a kid to not be able to play one more year.”
Filling in for Fitts will be freshmen Bradlee Anae and Chris Hart (redshirt freshman), two dynamic and strong defensive ends, loaded with promise and waiting for an opportunity.
Utah wide receiver Cory Butler-Byrd has been fully reinstated to the Utah team after serving a suspension following a criminal mischief charge. He was suspended on Utah’s opening day of fall camp on August 4, and allowed back for team activities minus game action on August 23.
“Whether or not he’ll play this week is to be determined,” said Whittingham. “But he is now eligible to play. He served his two-game suspension. We feel like He’s done everything that’s been asked of him. He still has got some things he’ll adhere to the rest of the way, but he’s good to go.”
Butler-Byrd came to the Utes as a defensive back, but switched full-time to wideout this spring. He is expected to be a speedy weapon and deep threat in the passing game.
Kyle Whittingham Post-Practice:
RB Zack Moss:
Defensive line coach Lewis Powell:
RB coach Dennis Erickson: