Yesterday the Utah Utes football team had media availability with players and coaches after closed practice. Block U caught up with head coach Kyle Whittingham, wide receivers coach Guy Holliday, and linebackers coach Justin Ena. Below is the full audio and a summary of what each coach talked about. Overall, it sounds like it was a pretty quiet practice without many new developments.
Whittingham called it a “physical day.” On red zone and third downs, Whittingham said that the team has worked on it. “It comes down to execution.” The coaches chart every play, which includes decision making from the quarterbacks. The team is still looking for the last few offensive linemen. It is worth noting that Matt Gay has hit from 67 yards in practice. The new redshirt rule was discussed extensively. Whittingham said that they are not just going to throw players into the first game if they think they will redshirt. “We have to track those four games. Once we get to that threshold then we have a decision to make whether to just go ahead and let them play or not. It will be based on if we think they are helping us win,” said Whittingham. Tuttle is one player who is likely to play at least four games according to Whittingham.
Holliday highlighted Siaosi Mariner, Demari Simpkins, Britain Covey, Bronson Boyd, and Samson Nacua. On Mariner, he said he has “matured as a player.” “He’s more physical than what he was,” said Holliday. “He bought in completely and shut the noise out,” said Holliday.
A lot was covered on the linebackers with coach Ena. One thing that is not in the audio that he said to another reporter as I was walking away was that he believes this is the best group of linebackers that he has coached. Ena was the linebackers coach when Gionni Paul, Jared Norris, and Jason Whittingham were all seniors, so his comment is high praise for this group. He said “it is nice,” to have senior leaders as starters.
“They are fully invested in the linebacker spot. Understanding that they have to make the call defensively. Put the D-line in the right spots. They are listening to the backend, making sure that everybody is on the same page. Those guys are awesome, great to work for,” said Ena.
On Cody Barton,
“He worked his butt off, which gained a lot of respect from the players around him. He’s been invested in this group for a long, long time. He’s taken the hard knocks and tried to figure out how to learn from them. He understands that you’ve got to be in the film room. You’ve got to fly around. You’ve got to be tough. You’ve got to be smart. He’s done a good job. People have taken a liking it to it and voted him captain,” said Ena.
Because of how much in the box safety that Chase Hansen played in the past. He has not had to make huge adjustments. “He’s done a really good job getting his eyes right and flying around. He’s such a physical presence,” said Ena.
On the depth of the group,
“You’ve got four or five guys. They are all guys that want to learn that are hungry. The skillsets are still kind of different that’s one thing. You’ve got two new guys that came in very, very late in camp. They are still trying to adjust and get ready to go. I think the future is bright. They just have to make sure that they buy in and are totally invested like Cody and Chase,” said Ena.
On Bryant Pirtle Jr. and Francis Bernard,
“They are coming along. They are doing some good things. They are flying around and learning the plays. Francis is starting to get it a lot more than Bryant Pirtle right now. There is a learning curve and they will figure it out soon,” said Ena.