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Utah football: Gionni Paul breaks foot, out 5-6 months

Two starters are now down on the defensive front.

Geoff Burke

The Utah Utes have lost their second starting linebacker of spring practice. Miami Hurricanes transfer Gionni Paul broke his foot in practice earlier this week and will have surgery later today. His timetable for returning is unknown. Utah has already lost Jacoby Hale to a torn ACL and MCL, leaving the Utes down two of their starting linebackers.

Paul transferred to Utah from Miami after the 2012 season thanks in large part to Dennis Erickson's arrival (with Kyle Whittingham closing the deal). He redshirted in 2013 but spent much of the year on the scout team. There, he generally simulated the opponent's most imposing linebacker, like Kyle Van Noy at BYU or Derrick Malone of Oregon.

Here are some excerpts from the above articles.

"I did my own research," Paul said. "I looked him up, and I love the scheme. I love (Whittingham’s) history. I love his background. Then I met him as a person, and I loved him as a person. … He cares about you, and that means a lot to me."

Paul isn’t the only one thrilled with his transfer to Utah. His teammates and new coaches believe he will bring intensity, speed and leadership to the Utes in the 2014 campaign.

Inertia personified, Paul started walking at 8 or 9 months and never slowed down unless he crashed into something, says his dad, Masha. As an 8-year-old in a 12-and-under youth football league, he was accused of being too old. "He was hurting people," Masha said. "He just had so much energy and was so aggressive. Everywhere we’d go, we had to show his birth certificate."

If both Paul and Hale are out for the beginning of the season, this will force Kalani Sitake to get creative. Redshirt freshman Tanner Larsen is currently slated as Paul's backup and he might be the last real option left before things get really dire. Brian Blechen is listed as a backup linebacker but is also the starting strong safety.

What do you think of these injuries? How badly could they hurt the Utes going forward? Who do you believe will step up?