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Utah reinstates Dominique Hatfield, no target for return to field

If there was one concern for Utah coming out of Thursday night’s season-opening win at home against Michigan, it might have been the defensive secondary. A key reinforcement is on the way though, as Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham has reinstated cornerback Dominique Hatfield. Whittingham announced the roster change Monday, saying the decision was made in conjunction with Utah athletic director Chris Hill.

''It was our belief, in fairness, he was deserving to be able to be reinstated back onto the football team,’' Whittingham said of welcoming Hatfield back to the program.

The decision to allow Hatfield back to the program is not a surprising one. Whittingham had previously left the door open for the suspended player’s return months ago. That was shortly after Hatfield was cut from the program amid allegations Hatfield brandished a knife while attempting to rob a man. Charges against Hatfield were later filed for felony aggravated robbery and misdemeanor theft, which but those charges were later dropped. He was also charged for misdemeanor assault from a fight at a party in July in a separate investigation. For that charge, Hatfield pleaded not guilty to the charge and is scheduled for a hearing on September 21.

So when should Hatfield be expected to return to the field? That remains unknown at this time. Utah is scheduled to play host to Utah State this weekend, but there has been no indication Hatfield will be made available so soon after being reinstated, at least in any significant role. Hatfield started 10 games for Utah in 2014 and could give the defense a boost whenever he does return to the field. Whittingham understands it may take time to get Hatfield back and ready to go in time this week, but once again the Utes head coach is not ruling it out.

''If he’s ready this week, he’ll play,’' Whittingham said. ''If he’s not, it could be something like three weeks.’'

Utah plays Oregon in three weeks (September 26, in three weeks).

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