No arm like a rocket launcher. No best quarterback situation in the country. No best team ever and definitely no BCS talk. Nope, this isn't last year's Kyle Whittingham. And for good reason, by listening to Coach Whittingham last summer, you would have thought the Utes were on the verge of besting the 1985 Chicago Bears. Of course Tommy Grady's rocket launching arm fizzled, the quarterback situation was spotty at best and the Utes failed to even make a blip on the BCS radar screen. But it's a new year, with renewed expectations, albeit a bit cooled from last year.
There is no doubting Kyle is was still struggling with on the job learning. His comments early often left him with his foot firmly shoved in his own mouth and often were the butt of some embarrassing jokes. In his quest to be like Urban Meyer -- who had a brash tongue, yet was a salesman that could sell water to New Orleans -- he often stumbled. His comments perplexed rivals and falsely gave Utah fans hope that things were going to be easy. Well college football is rarely easy and it appears Whittingham has learned the hard way. In fact, I would wager his subtle demeanor this offseason is more reminiscent of Meyer than what we had before.
It would seem that Whittingham realizes raising the bar in the preseason might ultimately be his own undoing. So instead of casting near impossible expectations, Whittingham is only hinting at how good this Utah team can be. Instead of having the best quarterback situation in the country, Utah now has an improved quarterback that has worked to beef up and fix the weak spots in his game. Instead of BCS aspirations, Utah is now taking it one game at a time. Will this work for Whittingham, or is it just his way of buying some time? I think that's tough to answer.
Ultimately I don't think a coach needs to sell his team on a yearly basis. However for a coach that still has no real identity, these moves can make or break his career. If Whittingham oversells expectations, the fans will tire of the constant failings. Yet if he doesn't raise the team's expectations, he runs the risk of them falling into obscurity. Realistically I think Whittingham is going about it the right way though. Instead of talking up his team as some unstoppable force, he'll leave the fans with just enough to realize the program's goals aren't set in stagnation. Then he'll allow the players to do the talking for him. If Utah can build into a solid non-BCS power under Coach Whittingham, what he says during the summer months leading up to the season won't really matter, because he'll have proven it. Right now however, Utah hasn't proven it can succeed beyond mediocre expectations and hopefully the past two years have humbled the coaching staff to the point where they know just talking up your team doesn't automatically mean they're going to dominate.