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Kyle Whittingham Weekly Press Conference Recap - Week 10

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Brittany Johnson

Fresh off of a BYE week, head coach Kyle Whittingham previews Utah’s game against UCLA.

In addition to the transcription of the interview below, you can also listen to the press conference this week.

Listen Here

Opening statement…

”Coming off the BYE week, ready to get back after it and we’ve got UCLA coming to town. We’ve got some momentum and they’ve got some momentum on a three-game win streak. They are starting to figure out who they are and are settling in. They are a very confident team, at least it appears that way when you watch them play. It is a team that controls its own destiny in the south just like we do, so it should be a great matchup. They have a good back, No. 7, who is doing a lot of good things for them. Their slot receiver, No. 2, is a good player as well. The quarterback is the one that makes it all go, he is a dynamic player. He is excellent with his legs especially when he makes big plays and extends the play. He makes that offense go. We have our hands full. It will be good to be back at home at Rice-Eccles and I think we got a lot of benefit out of the BYE week. We are a healthier team this week. We practiced a little bit, but for the most part the veterans got a lot of rest and the young guys got a lot of work. We also got some recruiting done – the usual stuff we try to get done on a BYE week.”

On the Utes ranking first in the Pac-12 in pass yards per completion and if that is a testament to Tyler Huntley or the wide receivers…

”I think it is both. They are both really important in that statistic. Tyler has done a great job all season long as far as taking care of the football. The turnovers have been kept to a minimum. He has done a nice job with his read progression. The offensive line plays a part in that too, giving him time. Our receivers have really stepped up this season though. We’ve been talking about them the last couple of years and they are starting to come into their own. Bryan Thompson, Demari Simpkins, Samson Nacua, Solomon Enis – we’ve got some good guys and they are guys who are making plays.”

On how he keeps the team focused on the task at hand instead of the national rankings…

”Easy because our focus and task is to get a win this week. No matter what you are ranked and no matter what that outside noise says, you can’t worry about that because no matter what it says you have to win. That is our whole focus.”

On if there has been a noticeable difference in being the “hunted” instead of trying to go for upsets each week…

”I don’t think so. We just feel like we are going to get everyone’s best shot, but I don’t think that is different from other years. We go into the game thinking that the opponent is respected and don’t overlook them. I don’t think that has been a factor this year.”

On if the 2004 and 2008 seasons prepared him for being back in the national spotlight…

”I think so. Those were two seasons where we were obviously very successful and had some lofty rankings. I think it was 2015 where we ascended pretty good but we kind of tailed off at the end. We are not completely unfamiliar with this territory.”

On UCLA’s quarterback…

”Very athletic. He is a guy that can really extend the play. He makes things happen and he is dynamic. He is making good decisions throwing the ball, but they are a run first time as are all good spread offenses. They are running the ball really well. No. 27 in the last three games is really starting to be productive, but the quarterback like I said is so dangerous. If you let him out of the pocket, he is very dangerous.”

On transitioning Simi Moala from defensive line where he played in high school to offensive tackle…

”We recruited him out of high school and he ended up signing with Oregon State. He went on his LDS mission, came back and had a change of heart. He wanted to reconsider where he wanted to play football. He ended up coming to us. We had a feeling while he was in high school that offensive tackle would be his eventual home and where he would be most successful and have his highest ceiling. He played defensive line for the first few months when he got here, but it was very apparent that he had a bright future so we decided to make the move. He wasn’t overly excited about it, but was willing to make the move. As he started to settle in and get more comfortable with the move, he started to excel and his game just got better and better. Now he is one of our best linemen as a redshirt freshman.”

On Josh Nurse and Tareke Lewis…

”Both of those guys play good football for us opposite of Jaylon. They have held up extremely well. Josh is a converted wide receiver who has a lot of length. They are two different types of players. Josh is a tall, lengthy defender where Tareke is smaller, but he has speed and great quickness. They both are being very productive. They are splitting reps right now. Josh has a few more reps than Tareke in the last few weeks just because of how the series have unfolded. It is an even 50/50 split with those guys though and they are both being productive.”

On if they have made a decision on Britain Covey’s status for the remainder of the year…

”Not 100-percent. We are just in the same mode that we have been in. We hope to redshirt him, that is the plan, but it is not set in stone because unforeseen things can happen. But right now that is still the mindset. He is practicing with us every day, running scout team and giving the first defense a good look. He continues to get more healthy as time goes on.”

On UCLA’s run game…

”They have a zone scheme with inside zone and outside zone, the typical runs that you see from spread offenses. They have a big back, he is 6-1, 220, so he has size to him. He has good quickness and good vision, but I think the offensive line that came in with guys that didn’t have a lot of experience now have nine games under their belt. I think the offensive line is functioning better and then he is getting more carries and more production. He is a good back.”

On leading the Pac-12 in nine statistical categories and what he thinks the key to their success has been…

”Well we pride ourselves on being physical and it starts with the run game and defending the run. Typically, run yardage is more damaging than throw yardage to a point. If you can just cram the ball down their throat, that can be demoralizing, so that is something that we want to have as a strong suit. We are doing better defensively in the run game better than anyone in the country right now, but we have a challenge this week because they are running the ball so well. But that is something that is very important for us. Turnover margin is very important. But if you had to pinpoint where it all starts it is physicality at the line of scrimmage where you play against the run tough and then run the ball effectively, which I think we are doing.”