To say that Utah’s roster has been in a state of flux leading into Week 3 would be a massive understatement.
Joe Williams began the 2016 season as the Utes’ starting running back; two weeks later, both the senior and the football program confirmed that he has decided to retire from the sport due to unspecified health concerns. Williams said it was a decision he had been thinking about making for the past couple of months.
“I feel as though this is the right decision. I’ll miss it of course, just not playing with these guys, we’re all a family here and I love these boys to death,” Williams said according to the Deseret News. “But, you know, it’s for the best interest and I’m going to be happy with my decision down the road.”
— Utah Football (@Utah_Football) September 13, 2016
Williams’ 75 yards rushing this season were second on the team. He was second among Ute backs last season with 477 yards.
Additionally, starting defensive end Kylie Fitts sustained a foot injury in the Week 2 win over rival BYU and will mess the remainder of the 2016 season. Fitts, who transferred to Utah from UCLA two years ago, is a senior, but the football program will apply for a medical hardship waiver that will give the lineman another season of eligibility to use in 2017.
In starting 11 games last season, Fitts led the Utes with seven sacks. He had started the first two games this season.
“It’s a blow,” head coach Kyle Whittingham said. “He’s one of our best players.”
And, finally, Whittingham confirmed that suspended wide receiver Cory Butler-Byrd “is now eligible to play,” although it’s unclear if he’ll play in this Saturday’s game against San Jose State.
In late August, the receiver pleaded guilty as part of a plea deal in connection to a July incident in which he allegedly damaged police property. Butler-Byrd had been indefinitely suspended from the program since the initial incident, although he was partially reinstated narly four weeks ago and was permitted to practice with the team.
After transferring to the Utes from the junior college ranks, Butler-Byrd began his FBS career as a cornerback. He began the transition to receiver during the 2015 season, then exited spring practice this year as the starter as a slot receiver for the Utes.
Butler-Byrd started five games last season as a corner/receiver (three at CB, two at WR), intercepting three passes and catching one pass for a 54-yard touchdown. He also returned eight kicks for 233 yards and a touchdown.