The Utes are preparing for their season opener Thursday and Kyle Whittingham talked about the process, expectations, the quarterback issue and more during his weekly press conference.
The first game is finally here, it's been a long time coming. I'm excited to get the season going and to find out where we are at as a team and where we stand. Utah State brings a lot of unknowns, as is in every opener. They have 10 returning starters and a new coaching staff and they have a lot of excitement with the turnover. I feel good about fall camp and our efforts to this point. The work ethic and focus have all been good, but you never know where you stand until you line up against someone. The changes in the coaching staff seem to have gone well. We have a lot of continuity and cohesiveness among the staff. Health-wise, we are relatively healthy. We did not lose anyone for the entire season, which is a positive. I am excited to get going. The MUSS is a record-setting 5,000 strong and the enthusiasm and passion they bring is tremendous. I am looking forward to watching these guys play in a few days.
I don't think Utah will overlook USU. Whittingham seems to have moved the team beyond that, which was a problem early in his career. The Aggies are a rival, it is the season opener and they're facing not only that rival, but a former member of the program.
On the unknowns for Utah:
Obviously at quarterback, whichever guy is in there has never taken a Division I snap. That's a situation where with the quarterback particularly you never know what you have until they are under fire in a game. We will be finding out on Thursday. A lot of new people on special teams. We have a new punter in Sean Sellwood. He is also the holder. A new snapper in Patrick Greene, and Ben Vroman has never placekicked in a football game. Luke Matthews has never returned a punt. We have two new corners. Brandon Burton and R.J. Stanford have big shoes to fill. That's about it. We have a lot of known commodities.
I've talked about the unknown factor most of the offseason and this is the biggest question entering the game. We just really don't know what to expect from Utah and though we have an idea - that's basically it. Until there is actual play on the field, there is the possibility of doubt and it'll be interesting to see how Utah responds to the potential unknowns that do exist.
On the quarterbacks:
Not naming a quarterback is not a schematic advantage, but it takes the pressure off the guy. There are going to be distractions anyway. It's not a top-secret deal, but it lets the guys focus and prepare and do their thing on Thursday with as little distraction as possible.
Both have played very well and have made strides each and every day with their decision-making. Both have done a nice job, but until they are in front of 40,000, fans we won't find out for sure.
Utah State will send the house after them and test them out and see how they handle pressure. All coordinators will do that. We've been pressuring the quarterback in practice and putting them in that situation, but when nothing's live, it's a bit of a different situation.With two guys being inexperienced, you never know when you will need to go to the other guy, so if we have the opportunity to play both, we will. We are not going to paint ourselves into a corner, but the opportunity to get both quarterbacks reps is dependent on how the game plays out and situations. You never know when you will need to use the other guy because of injury. Ideally we want both to get experience in a game situation.
I don't know if I fully agree with Whittingham's reasoning about taking pressure off the potential starter. It's obvious the guy who's starting knows he'll start, so will the media frenzy really be that much different than the rampant speculation we see now?
Not discussed is the possbility of him saying one thing and meaning something entirely different. So while he says he isn't doing this to grab an advantage against the Aggies, maybe he is. Maybe this is all a game and USU will prepare for Terrance Cain thinking he has the edge and the Utes actually Jordan Wynn.
Wouldn't that be a trip?
On Utah State:
Diondre Borrel is a terrific athlete. He is not a real big guy, but he is quick and fast and can hurt you in a few different ways. To have an effective spread, you need that kind of guy back there. They have 4-5 o-linemen returning and their tailback is a very good. I am very high on him; he is a great football player.
I mentioned Borel was a good athlete and I expect him to test Utah's defense, especially since he's a duel-threat. It'll be interesting to see how Kalani Sitake adjusts to this.
On coaching against Gary Andersen:
It's not about the coaches, it's about the players. When coaching a game, you are in game mode and managing the game. You are not concerned with the guy on the other sideline. I don't think there will be more to it than that.
I don't agree it's not about coaching. Whittingham is playing this down, but it's always a story when you're going up against a former coach from your program. It won't be a major issue, but it could impact the way the game develops. I don't expect Whittingham to run the score up if the opportunity presents itself - even though he might if he were facing Mike Sanford, who coached with him at Utah in 2003 and 2004.
Now we just need to get to Thursday.
Video of the press conference: