I always find it interesting reading national comments on Utah football. I think obviously the more positive press this program receives, the better off it will be. I think we all remember how we flew under the national radar most years with Ron McBride as our coach and then seemed to relish in our national role the two years Meyer was here. However since Kyle took over the duties of head coach, Utah's not been nearly the national player they were, but yet not close to being as irrelevant as the program felt in the waning years of McBride's career here. Much of that is because Utah has been able to put together two decent, but far from great, seasons. That seems to have been enough to keep Utah at the level of TCU, Boise State and now BYU, even though the past two years Utah hasn't sniffed what those teams have done.
That stature, as being an elite non-BCS team, is strong and one I think is important to cultivate a solid football program. However we owe much of that to Urban Meyer and the success he had here for those two short years. The carry over from Meyer's two years has been outstanding, but the further we remove ourselves from the 2004 season, the more this team will be judged by what Whittingham does and not what Meyer did. For now anyway, the media seems to have the impression that Kyle Whittingham is doing a solid job at keeping Utah relevant and even go out of their way to explain why he doesn't have nearly the gaudy record Urban Meyer did when he was here.
This is interesting of course because there are many Utah fans that are unhappy with Kyle Whittingham and the job he is doing here at Utah. Last year I asked Ute fans to rate Whittingham's job performance and only 27% of fans either strongly approved, or somewhat approved of his coaching. That's at about Pres. Bush's current approval rating levels, or what they consider in the polling business to be really bad marks. Of course that was asked in the midst of a near season-ending slump, so those results shouldn't be too surprising. But I've got to wonder how much they would change if the same question were posed today. And that's why I'll ask you to cast your vote, but that isn't until later.
Right now it's believed, within the media anyway, that Kyle Whittingham is a decent coach. The 2007 Coaches Hot Seat Rankings puts Kyle on the edge of the hot seat, but far down the list and near safe for now. He's just behind Joe Tiller (Purdue) and in front of Mike Leach (Texas Tech), which leads me to believe they feel he's pretty much safe.
Then there is Blue Ribbon, which in every preview goes over the head coach. This is some of what they had to say about Whittingham in their 2007 Utah preview:
Whittingham's record, 15-10, isn't gaudy, but few doubt the quality of his work. His first team, which had to replace eight seniors and quarterback Alex Smith, the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft, closed the year with a rush, finishing 7-5 and winning the Emerald Bowl. In 2006, Utah, despite playing without All-MWC quarterback Brian Johnson, who sat out the season with a torn ACL, won four of its last five, including an Armed Forces Bowl victory.
Whittingham deftly guided the Utes through Meyer's departure and took a pair of good but far from great teams to successful, bowl-winning seasons. After a transition period after the success of 2004, the Utes are poised to make a run at another 10-win.
What jumps out at me is the fact they state Kyle made the transition as smoothly as possible. Maybe so, but I'm guessing many Utah fans would disagree with this statement. I've seen a lot of posts on Ute Fans that suggest this is far from the case. Many felt Utah should have won 10 games in 2005 and probably 10 games again last year. But the facts brought up in the article to point to Whittingham's less than great record can't be ignored, either. The fact Utah won 8 games with a quarterback who was brought on just for backup reasons and essentially no running game, might signal that Whittingham knows what he's doing. And with more stability (unlike in '05 when he lost nearly the entire offense from '04 and a lot of key defensive players), the Utes could become elite again. Or maybe there is talent on this team and it's not being nearly as utilized by Whittingham and his coaching staff as it should be. Who knows, but we should have a better picture of all of this after the season is over.
What I do know is that Kyle isn't a bad coach. He might not be great, but he's done a decent job at keeping Utah from completely falling off the college football map. He's proven to be a solid recruiter, can beat BYU (did so in '05 and came a fluke play away from doing it again in '06), he's defeated TCU and improved Utah's conference record from 2005 to '06, even without the best quarterback on the field. There are short comings however and he needs to improve those if Utah is going to once again compete for the top spot in the Mountain West. If he doesn't, Utah will probably always hover around 3rd or 4th and always looking up to BYU and TCU.
So what do you think? Is Kyle a good coach, a bad one? Vote Here.