Hope spring eternal right? When it comes to college football that saying takes on added meaning when Spring football practice begins. At the University of Utah, the hope is about winning Pac-12 South Division and getting a shot at the Pac-12 Football Conference Title.
I was fortunate enough to discuss a range of topics with Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham on Thursday.
Utah is coming off a mediocre season for them at 7-6 and are looking to a much improved 2018 season.
Utah was also the lone win for the Pac-12 during the past bowl season.
The Utes return 18 fulltime or part time players. Having that much experience is something that any coach would welcome.
The Utes have a good quarterback issue on their hands. I started there with Coach Whittingham.
Question: How has Tyler Huntley progressed this spring?
“He’s really shown me something in terms of his decision making. Tyler has taken much better care of the ball this spring. He put the ball in the hands of the other team a few times last year, so that was something I wanted to see improved. His leadership with the team is much better as well.” Whittingham said.
Utah has three quarterbacks battling for their spots on the roster. The Utes have Tyler Huntley, Jason Shelley, and new highly prized recruit Jack Tuttle.
Tuttle graduated early from high school and has impressed everybody at practice.
Question: How is Jack Tuttle done? Is he as good as advertised?
“The poise this kid has shown is beyond his years. He comes in and works his tail off. The leadership he has shown as a true freshman is incredible. The physical attributes he brings are as good as advertised. If his work ethic continues, he will do some special things. We do have to remember that he is only a freshman and so we have to calm the expectations just a bit. There is plenty of learning ahead of him.” Whittingham explained.
It is obvious in his tone, that Coach Whittingham is excited to have a young talent like Tuttle in his stable of players.
Question: Last year was seen as a rebuilding year for the program. What are thoughts on that?
“First of all, everybody is rebuilding. I don’t really like the term rebuilding. You get to a certain level and you’re always wanting to stay at that level. You have to rebuild to replace the loss of talent every year. We were 7-6, but lost to the three best teams in the conference by a combined seven points. We did win our bowl game against a good West Virginia team. The group we have returning is a good group.” Whittingham said.
Question: Chase Hansen has been moved around quite a bit in his Ute career. Hansen is now a linebacker, how has that move gone?
“Chase is a guy who does whatever he can to benefit the team. He will certainly stay at linebacker. The benefit to us is the best there. He has such a nose for the ball and the way he hits opponents gives us a big advantage. The athleticism Chase has is going to bring great results to our team at linebacker.” Whittingham said.
The post season for the Pac-12 in both football and basketball has been a huge disappointment for players, coaches, and fans. I asked Coach Whittingham about the lack of success in the post season for the conference.
Question: The Pac-12 has not shown a great amount of success in the post season in football or basketball this season. What are your thoughts on the lack of success?
“Well, we did win our bowl, so that was great. However, I don’t read to much into this. I believe it’s all cyclical. Other conferences struggle from time to time in their bowl games. I don’t see it as an overall problem.” Whittingham mentioned.
Kyle Whittingham is one of those coaches you have a difficult time rooting against. He runs his program with a high degree of intergrity and honor. Being 7-6 in 2017 doesn’t sit well with him or anybody associated with the program. With the amount of returning players he has the return to prominence for the Utes will be quick.
In 2018, the Pac-12 should be ready for a Ute rising.
I know Coach Whittingham is ready.