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Kyle Whittingham Week 1 Press Conference Recap

NCAA Football: Pac-12 Media Day Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

We’re back! Coach Kyle Whittingham addressed the media Monday ahead of Utah’s season opener against BYU.

Here’s Whittingham’s opening statement:

”Game week is finally here. We are ready to go. One thing about college football is that you get so tired of beating on each other through spring ball and fall camp. It isn’t like the NFL where you get a few preseason games to get ready, you have to work against each other. I know our guys are sick of that as is I’m sure everyone else in the country, so it is going to be nice to get out and play an opponent instead of just lining up against ourselves. We had a good fall camp. I think our guys are ready to go, but we will find out. We still have some question marks that will probably be resolved through the course of play, like how the offensive line will come together, our kicking situation. There are still some things that are unsettled, as far as not knowing for certain, but that is the nature of the game. I am sure everyone in the country has those issues as well.”

On how Tyler Huntley, Zack Moss and Britain Covey are looking after season-ending injuries in 2018:

”They will be ready to roll. We are looking forward to having them back. That is a lot of offensive production that you just mentioned and it is great to have them back.”

On starting off the season with a rivalry game:

”Well the rivalry game is always a big deal in the state. Most years, it is the biggest even of the entire year. No conference implications, obviously with the way things are set up now, but always bragging rights has an impact on some of the in-state recruiting. Every game is a big deal. The rivalry game coming in the opener is brand new and it has put a whole different spin on it, so we will see how it goes.”

On what he learned from the week zero games:

”Maybe just the fact that typically the team that makes the fewest mistakes will win, but Hawaii turned the ball over six times. That is an anomaly. You look at statistical analysis and that is in the two-percent category of getting away with that, but even the Florida/Miami game had penalties and miscues. In an opener, you want to try and eliminate as much chaos as you can and if you just play hard, it will cover up the mistakes that you do make. The opener is always a lot of unknowns no matter who you are playing, and you have to be ready for just a broad spectrum of possibilities because they’ve had all of offseason to change things up.”

On not being considered an underdog anymore:

”We are trying to build on the success of last year, had a pretty good year with winning the Pac-12 South. You have to be able to handle that success, and handling that success is a lot different from trying to attain it. It is a different kind of mindset and you have to continue to work hard and not think you have all of the answers. You have to be able to do what got you there and not get comfortable with what you have accomplished, because we have a lot more we want to get accomplished.”

On Tareke Lewis winning the starting cornerback job:

”He just slightly edged out Josh Nurse. You’ll see both Josh and Tareke in the game because it was that close. Another guy, JaTravis Broughton, a freshman who is really coming along, now whether or not he will get any game time on defense that remains to be seen. That was a close battle though. Tareke played just slightly better than Josh for more of fall camp, but where Josh Nurse is right now compared to when he made the transition to defensive back is night and day. We are very proud of what he has done there.”

On BYU’s quarterback Zach Wilson and his progression:

”He was thrown in there as a true freshman and I thought he handled it well. His numbers got better as the season wore on. It is a new season, everything is a fresh start for everybody. You can definitely see him getting more comfortable in their scheme, and more productive as the season went on. And then he finished the year off with that statistically outstanding game in the bowl game.”

On if he sees Devin Brumfield and Jordan Wilmore getting playing time:

”Absolutely. Zack is obviously our lead guy, but as we talked about before, when you run the football 40 times a game, he isn’t going to carry it 40 times. So, there has to be some supplemental carries in there. You will see Jordan Wilmore, you will see Devonta’e Henry-Cole and you will see Devin. We have four guys right now that are in the mix for carries, but Zack will get the lion’s share of the carries.”

On his level of confidence in the kicking and punting game as the season is getting started:

”Very good right now, but as I always say with kickers, the game situation is different than practice. As far as what we have seen in practice, we are confident in both the punting, place kicking and the kick off. We will see when they get their opportunity in the game, but if they play like they practice, then they should be just fine.”

On if he still enjoys the BYU rivalry all of these years later:

”It is competitive, it is intense. When you aren’t in the same conference, there is a different feel to it, but it is still every bit as gratifying as always.”

On his relationship with Kalani Sitake:

”I feel very close to Kalani. We spend a lot of time together in the offseason, we have a lot in common as far as how we think, and similar personality wise. One of my earliest memories of him is when I interviewed him. Gary Anderson said ‘here is a guy I want you to take a look at’ for a spot on the staff, but didn’t necessarily say where. Kalani had coached offense for most of his time. We spent a couple of hours talking that day and we hit it off right away. I just really enjoyed his personality and his attitude.”

On what the focus will be for the defensive line heading into the game:

”Just play their game. We have very good players up front, those three seniors in particular. Maxs Tupai and Mika Tafua, the underclassmen, are also very good. You don’t want to press or try to do too much – just do your job. Last year, we did get some pressures, but we let them out of the cage several times and we were disciplined enough in our rush lanes, so that has been an emphasis all camp. Now that is not to say that the quarterback is never going to escape. There are four pass rushers and six gaps, so you aren’t going to cover every gap every single rep. Just make him feel uncomfortable, we have to be able to disrupt him.”

On the team’s personality and how it might be different from past seasons:

”It is far more similar to last year than different. Leadership has been outstanding, the way they go about their business. I say that because we only lost like 10 seniors, so everybody is back and there is not a lot of turnover. Some years when you lose 20-plus seniors, you can see a dramatic change in the attitude and the personality, but this year it is very similar to what it was last year, which is a good thing. I loved last year’s group and I feel the same about these guys.”

On what success looks like to him in the first game:

”Success for us, to win would be the definition of it without a doubt. I don’t know what else to say because we are measured in wins and losses, so that would be the primary focus and criteria. Doesn’t matter how it happens, ugly, pretty, none of that matters – just trying to get a win.”

On if he thinks this is one of the most experienced teams he has had coming back:

”I would say yes, just based on the outgoing seniors. And I don’t want to minimize those guys because they were really good football players and I think close to every one of them got a shot in the NFL, but as far as just returning experience, it is similar to the 2008 year.”

On if they talk to the team about the winning streak against BYU:

”Well we don’t focus on the number. It is a situation where the team feels a responsibility to the other people who have come through the program and we have had five senior classes come through that have never tasted defeat in this game. They don’t want to be the group that breaks that streak. Nothing lasts forever, that is for certain, but they don’t want to be the ones that are in that situation.”

On if the prep has been different because they are opening against BYU:

”Nothing has been different. Not in our approach, how we handled spring ball, summer conditioning and through fall camp. We started preparing for our opponent at the exact same time during fall camp that we have in years past, so the process is the process. It doesn’t change and we believe in it.”

On if Zack Moss and Britain Covey will have similar loads to last year:

”They are both really good players and Zack Moss, we like to establish the run, that will never change. Zack is one of the best backs in the country in our opinion, so he is certainly going to get his share of touches. Covey is our leading receiver returning, so yeah to answer your question, they will be a big part of the offense.”