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'We just move forward': Utes adjust after opening camp without a projected starting linebacker

Utah linebacker Devin Lloyd (20) points as the Utes go through their first day of fall camp on Wednesday, July 31, 2019, at the Eccles Football Center Fields on the school's campus in Salt Lake City. Photo courtesy University of Utah Athletics
Utah linebacker Francis Bernard looks on as the Utes go through their first day of fall camp on Wednesday, July 31, 2019, at the Eccles Football Center Fields on the school's campus in Salt Lake City. Utah Athletics
Linebacker Manny Bowen runs drills during a University of Utah football practice at the Eccles Football Center in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, March 26, 2019. Spenser Heaps, Deseret News
Linebacker Manny Bowen, right, runs drills during a University of Utah football practice at the Eccles Football Center in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, March 26, 2019. Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah opened camp Wednesday without a projected starter at linebacker. Senior Manny Bowen, a graduate transfer from Penn State, has decided to leave the team without playing a single down for the Utes.

"Unfortunately, a couple of days ago Manny informed us that he is retiring from football. He's got a business opportunity that he felt was too good to pass up," said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham. "And the opportunity was right now and so he is exiting football and starting a business career. We wish him the best."

Whittingham added that they hate to see Bowen go.

"We were excited about what he was going to bring to the table this season," he continued. "But that's all now a moot point and like I said, we wish him well."

Bowen's departure came as a complete surprise, according to Whittingham. He said there wasn't any hint or anything out of the ordinary all throughout summer conditioning.

“We were excited about what he was going to bring to the table this season. But that’s all now a moot point and like I said, we wish him well.”

Utah coach Kyle Whittingham, on Manny Bowen

Moving forward was the theme of the day as the Utes began preparations for the upcoming season. They open the campaign Aug. 29 at BYU.

"We just move forward," Whittingham said. "We've got good players in the program."

The remaining linebacker corps includes senior Francis Bernard, sophomore Devin Lloyd, junior college transfer Trennan Carlson and Stanford transfer Sione Lund.

"If (Bowen) was going to hang up the spikes, it's better to do right now at the get-go so we can start investing the reps into the other guys," Whittingham said. "So always moving forward, don't look back and it's just part of the game."

Even so, it was a bit of monkey wrench for first-year linebackers coach Colton Swan.

"Man, I'll tell you what, that was interesting, wasn't it?" he said. "I think the main thing that you do is move forward. You don't have any other choice."

The Utes hope to combat the situation by staying positive, keeping energy up and continue to press forward.

"The guys that I've got are great players, Swan said. "They've got to step up."

Defensive coordinator Morgan Scalley noted that the Utes have no choice but to adjust to being without Bowen.

"Manny's a great kid, a great young man, that decided it was in his best interest to move on and we wish him well," Scalley said. "But the bottom line is, if we're thinking about him we're wasting time right now. So we're moving on and we've got guys to fill that spot."

Lloyd is the frontrunner to replace Bowen as a starter alongside Bernard.

"He is the one who deserves the reps, you bet. He's athletic and he's a good football player and he'll show it," said Scalley, who added that Lloyd is ready. He considered him the most improved defender in spring ball.

Scalley didn't know Bowen was leaving until Tuesday and is taking a "is what it is" approach to the departure.

"I can't change what's happened," he said. "Like I said, we're moving on. Bottom line. We wish him well. He is a good kid and we're moving on."

Lloyd expressed excitement about his opportunity to become a starter. He's eager to show what he can do in the role.

"Our young guys know their stuff," Bernard told reporters. "They responded well today. We just got to move forward."

Junior cornerback Jaylon Johnson is confident the defense will do just that.

"We can bounce back from anything," he said. "It's just next man up. We've just got to keep playing football."

EXTRA POINTS: Offensive lineman Bamidele Olaseni, a signee from Garden City (Kansas) Community College, is expected to join the Utes next Wednesday . . . Whittingham said that having junior receiver Britain Covey, who is coming back from a knee injury, ready for the BYU game is the goal and objective. He's on a "pitch count" right now in an effort not to wear him out early in camp . . . Utah announced a home-and-home series with Arkansas. The Utes will host the Razorbacks in 2026 and return the visit in 2028.