Utah Utes backup running back Harvey Langi will leave the football program to serve his mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) instead, the school announced this week.
Langi, who finished his freshman season with just 13 carries and 70 yards, will serve in Tampa, Fla., and is expected to return to the team for the 2014 season. However, the Utes’ coaching staff saw Langi put in an exceptional off-season and spring ball, during which he added 10 pounds to his frame while maintaining his speed, making him the consensus backup to starter and workhorse John White IV (5-foot-8, 188 pounds), a preseason Heisman hopeful.
Head coach Kyle Whittingham saw Langi (6-1, 228) as offering a power-back component and strategic complement to White, who had 316 carries, 1,519 yards and 15 rushing touchdowns in 2011. When he entered the program last season as a freshman, many thought that he, and not White, would become the Utes starting running back. Instead, Langi posted a disappointing showing while White excelled and eventually won the job, setting the school’s single-season rushing record in the process.
With Langi gone, the staff will probably give the backup job to Kelvin York (5-11, 223), though Jarrell Oliver (5-8, 210) and Lucky Radley (5-8, 183) will likely be in the mix as well.
Langi’s potential as a solid contributor was unquestioned as he entered the program with high expectations. Barring injury, the Utes are still in good shape for 2012 with senior White carrying the running game. However, Langi will still be on his LDS mission in 2013 and Utah will mount a significant manhunt for White’s eventual replacement since Langi appeared to have earned that title this spring. Once he returns, Langi will be two years out of football and the Utes will have been forced to move on without him.
Since it is school policy, the university did not issue any comment.