Washington ponders the Dunn dilemma

November, 7, 2012
11/07/12
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Washington coach Steve Sarkisian remembers a fleet-footed youngster cruising around the campus of USC. He saw the potential and that's why he recruited Reggie Dunn.

But Dunn ended up at Compton Community College before settling at Utah.

"The thing about Reggie, I've known him for about eight years. I've known him since he was a little squirt running around at Verbum Dei High School when I was at SC," Sarkisian said. "They'd' come over and hang out and throw and come to our passing league tournament and things of that nature."

[+] EnlargeReggie Dunn
Russ Isabella/US PresswireUtah's Reggie Dunn has returned three kickoffs for touchdowns in the past two games.
Now Sarkisian has to make a decision regarding Dunn: Kick to him, or not?

Dunn has been the most explosive special teams player in the country the past few weeks. Two weeks ago he became the first player in NCAA history to return a pair of kickoffs 100 yards for touchdowns, a remarkably impressive achievement. But he followed it up a week later with a third 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown -- his third in two weeks and the fourth of his career. Four from 100 yards is another NCAA record, which was previously held by Barry Sanders at Oklahoma State. And anytime your name gets mentioned with that guy, you're doing things right.

"It's all coaching," Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham said, with his tongue securely in his cheek. "He's an explosive kid, first of all. He's very fast and he can make you miss. He's the ideal kick returner."

With the Utes looking to make a late-season push to gain bowl eligibility, they need all the help they can get -- especially this week on the road at CenturyLink Field. The Clink has proven to be one of the toughest places to play this season. And with freshman quarterback Travis Wilson still feeling his way around the starting gig for Utah, points will be at a premium.

"Reggie has always been explosive," Sarkisian said. "He's always been fast. He's always had big-play capabilities. We're very aware of it. Obviously he's been on a bit of a roll the last couple of weeks."

Sarkisian skillfully ducked a definitive answer on whether they would give Dunn the opportunity to return kicks. Coaches have a funny way of not wanting to tell the media their game plans. But Dunn is averaging 55.4 yards per kick return -- which would be the national leader if he had enough attempts to qualify. As a result, Whittingham has started to use him more on offense as well.

"He played more snaps last week than he has in any game since he's been here," Whittingham said. "He's really started to come on for us, which is a good thing. He's really provided a spark for us."

Even Whittingham admits if he were facing a Reggie Dunn, he'd probably look to kick elsewhere.

"I would think teams are a little leery kicking to him with what's transpired the last two weeks," Whittingham said. "But we'll see. It's anybody's guess to how they'll approach it. But if it was us facing a guy that's done what he'd done, we'd probably be very reluctant to kick it to him."

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