Spring practice starts in less than a week. In the run up to the start of spring football, we will be looking at the 10 biggest questions. We first looked at the offensive line position battles. We will now look at how the Utah defense may change now that Utah has a new defensive coordinator The Utah defense will be helmed by the third different defensive coordinator in three years. BYU head coach Kalani Sitake was Utah's defensive coordinator from 2009 to 2014. Sitake left Utah to join head coach Gary Andersen as the defensive coordinator at Oregon State where he stayed for one year before taking the BYU head coaching job. Sitake was replaced by John Pease, who came out of retire for a second time to coach at his alma mater. Pease stayed for one year before retiring again, and longtime Utah assistant Morgan Scalley was promoted to defensive coordinator. Scalley has plenty of familiarity with Utah's defense. He played safety at Utah from 2001-2004. Current Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham was Scalley's defensive coordinator when he played for Utah. Scalley was the Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year as a senior in 2004. Scalley has coached Utah's safeties for the past eight seasons.
Having spent over ten years coaching and playing in Utah's defense, it seems likely Scalley's defense will look similar to his predecessors. He has learned under Whittingham, Andersen, Sitake, and Pease. Each former DC has run a 4-3 as a base defense. While all of the defense shared many similarities, there have been subtle differences. We will mainly focus on Sitake's and Pease's defenses. Sitake brought a lot more pressure and recorded more sacks than Pease did. Pease's defense forces more turnovers though however. The transition to playing more 4-2-5 began under Sitake to a degree but was the case much more under Pease. The switch to nickel defense has happened to counteract the spread offenses Utah faces so often in the Pac-12.
Scalley has learned under four excellent defensive coordinators, and it sounds like last year Pease was grooming Scalley to take over. Now that Scalley is in control, what will his defense look like? It will certainly be a 4-3 defense that utilizes the nickel defense against spread teams. It should look overall similar to Utah's defenses in years past. The question is what subtleties will differentiate his defense from his former mentors? Will Scalley bring as much heat (or even more) than Sitake did? Will he bring less pressure and focus more on creating turnovers and stopping the run like Pease did? Or, will he be somewhere in the middle or bring some new focus entirely? We will begin to learn about this in the spring. It will also be interesting to see how Scalley uses his personnel and how he replaces departed players (some of these things we will cover in coming articles as well).
10 Biggest Spring Questions: