Utah wrapped up their first practice preparing for BYU this evening. Block U caught up with head coach Kyle Whittingham, offensive guard Salesi "Leka" Uhatafe, and defensive tackle Lowell Lotulelei to take about the rivalry game against BYU and their performance against Southern Utah.
Whittingham was asked about his coaching tree that includes BYU head coach Kalani Sitake. Whittingham, who played for BYU, became a Ute "overnight" when his father Fred Whittingham Sr. because the Utah defensive coordinator in 1992 "blood is thicker than water." Whittingham said that there are elements in Utah's current offense that date back to the 1990s BYU offense with several former BYU players coaching Utah's offense.
Whittingham said the offensive line looked "more focused" as did the running backs. He does not have an answer why they did not perform up to their potential against Southern Utah, but watching the film has boosted their work ethic in practice.
In other news, Whittingham "is too high strung" to take naps.
Uhatafe says "there is a lot we [the offensive line] can improve on" after the first game. He said the offensive line is working hard and will be better in the BYU game. He said "it should be fun" seeing former coaches like Sitake.
Lotulelei comes from a BYU family. His father got his Ph.D at BYU. He says his dad still roots for BYU when they are not playing for Utah but will be cheering for the team in red on Saturday. Lotulelei was recruited to Utah by Sitake and was coached by BYU defensive coordinator Ilaisa Tuiaki when he was the defensive line coach at Utah. He said "it is not really a big thing" facing Sitake "it is just any other game." He praised Sitake as a coach though. "It's good to have them in the regular season," said Lotulelei about having the rivalry back in the regular season. He feels the hype for the game on Saturday. He said his older brother Star will probably give him some advice on how to handle the hype of the game.