Safety Sione Vaki Trending Toward Primarily Playing Offense For Utah

Oct 23, 2023, 2:23 PM

SALT LAKE CITY – Before the season started, there were many prognosticators who felt safety Sione Vaki could be a breakout star for Utah. They were correct, but the surprise is how that is happening.

It is no secret the Utes have been banged up from the jump in 2023 and were in desperate need of a spark- particularly on offense.

Utah’s coaching staff went to work doing what it does best when their backs are against a wall- identifying their best available players and moving them in positions to be difference makers. Vaki happened to be one of those players.

Offense Is Nothing New For Sione Vaki

Vaki was a standout offensive player in Northern California through his high school years, impressing as a running back and slot receiver.

When Utah took note of him, they envisioned him as a playmaker on defense which he has been. Last season, as a freshman playing safety, Vaki forty-one tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, with one forced fumble and three pass breakups

In 2023, Vaki has contributed a team-best 33 tackles while ranking second on the team with 6.5 tackles for loss. He’s also added one sack, an interception, and a pass breakup while being tied for fourth in the Pac-12 with 5.5 tackles for loss during conference play.

However, while Vaki has quietly been good for Utah on defense, he’s made an explosive impact for the Utes on offense the past two games going back to his high school roots.

Vaki made his first appearance as a running back in Utah’s lone loss of the season to Oregon State, but Cal is where he really put people on notice.

Against the Golden Bears, Vaki rushed 15 times for 158 yards and two touchdowns, helping get Utah’s offense back on track with a 34-14 win. Vaki wasn’t finished though.

The following weekend against USC at the Coliseum, Vaki accounted for nine rushes for 68 yards while averaging 7.6 yards per carry. Additionally, Vaki showed off his receiver chops where he was even more potent, accounting for five catches for 149 yards and two touchdowns while racking up 113 yards after catch.

Where Does Sione Vaki’s Future Lie?

After the Cal game, head coach Kyle Whittingham was pretty adamant about Vaki still being a defensive player who would just so happen to play offense. Fast forward to Monday and it appears the tune is changing a bit when asked if he may end up primarily being an offensive player.

“It seems to be trending in that direction. We’ll see where it ends up,” Whittingham said. “The first thing we have to do is make sure we don’t overload him- make his workload too heavy and too much to handle. There is also a mental aspect to it too, it’s not just physical. The safety position here is a lot of adjustments. They do all of the adjustments and coverage calls. They run the show back there. There is a lot at play mentally with that. It’s analytically proven the impact of offense is greater than the impact of defense. We’re going to continue to have him be a big part of the offense and see how much he can handle.”

Michelle Bodkin is the Utah Utes Insider for KSLsports.com and host of both the Crimson Corner Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and The Saturday Show (Saturday from 10 a.m.–12 p.m.) on The KSL Sports Zone. Follow her on XInstagram, and Threads: @BodkinKSLsports

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Safety Sione Vaki Trending Toward Primarily Playing Offense For Utah