After transferring to Utah last year, Gionni Paul was forced to sit out the 2013 season to satisfy NCAA regulations. Unfortunately for the linebacker, he’ll have to wait even longer to officially begin his Utes playing career.
Head coach Kyle Whittingham confirmed Friday that Paul suffered a broken bone in his foot during a practice session Tuesday. Whittingham’s timeline for Paul’s return is 5-6 months; the best-case scenario in that scenario would be for Paul to return in mid-September, after the start of the regular season Aug. 28 vs. Idaho State. The worst-case would be a return a month later and missing upwards of six games, including three Pac-12 contests.
Paul, projected to be one of the Utes’ starting linebackers, suffered the injury after what his coach described as a fairly innocuous collision with teammates.
“It wasn’t anything out of the ordinary,” Whittingham said of the circumstance that led to the injury. “He didn’t get it caught underneath the pile or anything like that. He was just pushing off, an unfortunate situation, and it snapped.”
The injury to Hale is the second significant one the Utes have suffered to a starter at the position this spring. In late March, Jacoby Hale tore an ACL that will likely keep him out for the entire 2014 season, although the team “hopes” he can return at some point.
In early January of 2013, it was confirmed that Paul was no longer a part of the Miami (Fla.) football team. A short time later, Paul landed with the Utes and was idle all last season because of transfer rules. Despite never playing a down for the Utes, Paul was voted a team captain earlier this spring.