University of Utah

Quotes from Kyle Whittingham’s Weekly Press Conference

Opening Statement:
“They’re an athletic team even though they didn’t fare very well against [USC] Trojans. They do have very good players. They certainly have all of our attention and all of our respect. They have won 20 games over the last two years and were essentially one game away from the BCS last year. Even though last week was not really competitive for them, we fully realize how good they are. They’re well-coached and have plenty of really good players. We need to play our best football. The game is at our place, which is a plus, and playing our previous game last Thursday gave our guys a little bit more time to rest and heal up. We’ll get back on the field today and start preparing for Fresno State.”

On performance against Idaho State representative of team’s identity:
“Hopefully not, in terms of our run defense. That was the thing that irked us the most, porous run defense. Other than that, things were good. Our offense was explosive with a lot of big plays. We had one turnover, which was one too many, but we still took pretty good care of the football. We made a bunch of first downs, scored a bunch of points. Our special teams were pretty solid. We made some pretty good plays there. Defensively, we were solid against the pass. The glaring negative was our run defense. We have to get that fixed because Fresno State ran the ball effectively against USC. They had a back almost get to 100 yards rushing, which is pretty good against that USC front.”

On issues in run defense:
“It wasn’t really guys in the wrong roles, it was guys not in the right gaps. It was more assignments rather than personnel. It was being in the wrong position and so forth. It was missed assignments and not cancelling gaps that needed to canceled. It’s not a really difficult fix. We just have to make sure we’re getting in the right gap and we’ll work this week to make sure that happens. It’s not like we’re getting manhandled, that’s the point, it was more assignment errors.”

On Dominique Hatfield listed as co-starter at corner on latest depth chart:
“His debut at corner was very good. He did a lot of good things so he’s going to get his opportunity to start. He’s still a two-player, he’s still going to play some receiver as well. It’s been a reversal because up to this point he was primarily a receiver playing corner secondarily. It’s reversed now. He’s primarily a corner and playing receiver as a secondary position.”

On unanswered questions after Idaho State game:
“We did a lot of good things [against Idaho State]. A victory is a victory and we felt pretty good about a lot of things. I don’t believe you get a true perspective [of a team] until three or four weeks into the season. For sure, one game can’t give you great perspective. You need a couple. It’s not until later in the season, weeks three, four or five, that you really start to find out who you are what you do well.”

On progress of Kaelin Clay:
“He has made a lot of progress. He’s just about caught up from a physical and mental standpoint. He didn’t get here until right before two-a-days started so he was starting from square one, where as the other new guys had a chance to meet twice a week all summer long with that new NCAA rule. He missed out on that, but he certainly made up a lot of ground in the game with the big plays on the returns. His stamina is still not where it needs to be. He’s still getting that part down. With the fast tempo we play at, he was nowhere near ready for that at the very beginning, but he’s getting closer now. He’s a big play guy, that was very apparent when he touched the ball Thursday night.”

On losing turnover battle against Idaho State:
“That was a huge negative. I expressed to the team and the coaching staff that we’re going to have a very difficult time if that shows up in Pac-12 games. It’s tough to win [when losing the turnover battle]. We have to get that reversed and that was an Achilles Heel for us last year. It really wasn’t the turnovers. One turnover is not excessive, but we have to get takeaways. The defense has to be able to take the ball away. Dominique Hatfield led his team with 10 interceptions as a senior in high school, so hopefully with him back there, that will give us a chance to go that. He’s a guy with great ball skills who can go get the ball in the air for us. USC was able to intercept Fresno four times, which wasn’t the difference in the game by any means, but it certainly helps.”

On missed opportunities for takeaways against Idaho State:
“There was a ball on the ground that we didn’t get on. We had an opportunity for an interception or two, but we didn’t capitalize. Credit Idaho State, they did a nice job taking care of the football.”

On improvement from week 1 to week 2:
“Well, it’s relative. I hope it happens for us and I’m sure Fresno State hopes it happens for them. We’re both going into week 2 so it’s a wash, but I think you’re going to see both team going into week 2 dramatically improved.”

On Devontae Booker:
“He will get more carries. He was very productive. Both him and Bubba [Poole] had over 7.0 yards per carry, but [Booker] really did some nice things. He caught that screen pass and took it 61 yards up the sideline and made some nice runs so he definitely will be more of a factor this week.”

On Junior Salt’s performance against Idaho State and Siaosi Aiono’s return to the starting lineup:
“[Salt] is a good player. He’s determined. He’s disappointed by how he played [against Idaho State], but there’s no question in my mind over the long haul that he’s going to be a very good player for us. It’s going to be great to have [Aiono] back at center. He’s a guy who had a very good spring and fall camp. He didn’t play [against Idaho State] because of some things that will stay between me and him, but he’ll be back in the lineup this week.”

On Clay moving past Delshawn McClellon on offensive depth chart based on returns or receiving:
“It was a combination of when the ball is in hands, he’s dangerous and it doesn’t matter whether it’s by virtue of a kick or reception. He proved to us that he’s as good as advertised and very dynamic when he has the football. It will be a combination of what he did on special teams as well as at receiver.”

On quick scoring drives:
“That’s indicative of a fast-paced offense. When you have a fast-paced offense, the drives are going to be quicker. We’re really not concerned with the time it takes to get in the end zone. Obviously, longer drives give your defense a rest when it’s six, eight, 10 or 12 plays. We want to avoid three-and-outs. The worst thing that can happen to a high-tempo offense is a three-and-out that gets your defense back on the field 45 seconds later. As long as we can avoid three-and-outs, we’ll take touchdowns just as fast as we can get them.”

On Fresno State playing two quarterbacks:
“[We are preparing this week] for both. [Brian Burrell and Brandon Connette] are still listed as `OR’ [co-starters on the depth chart]. Neither of them had a whole lot of success throwing the ball. The numbers weren’t necessarily indicative of how good of players they are. The USC secondary is really active and the front is really tough. That’s a tough matchup for most teams in the country. We expect to see both and we’ll prepare accordingly.”

On facing former Utah offensive coordinator Dave Schramm:
“It’s pretty much like any other week. [Schramm] has been gone for a few years. We’ve changed quite a bit offensively over the last couple years. He’s evolved offensively so I really don’t see that as an advantage either way, him knowing us or us knowing him. It’s a complete non-factor.”

On the tempo of the offense against Idaho State:
“It was about right [where we want it]. You always want to try and force the tempo and play as fast as you can, but not at the expense of lack of execution as I’ve said many times. There is a point of diminishing returns when you try to go too fast. Although we may not be going as fast as ideal, we’re pushing that envelope and we’re very close.”

On team’s approach heading into Fresno State game:
“First of all, you look at what they’ve accomplished the last two years. I realize each year is its own entity and separate team, they’ve lost some players and we’ve lost some players, but all you have to do is look at the personnel man for man. They have a safety who is outstanding and a defensive lineman who is very good and their running back just about got 100 yards on USC. We go into every game really respecting our opponent and not taking any other approach. In college football, any given Saturday anything can happen. Last Saturday just wasn’t [Fresno State’s] day against the Trojans.”

On Tavaris Williams moving to corner:
“It’s not so much a need as much as we feel that’s where their greatest upside is, where they can the most to the football team. It’s not panic mode. We think Tavaris and Monte Seabrook, who initially was a safety during fall camp. We’re always looking to get guys in the spots where we feel they have the most upside, the highest ceiling. We think Tavaris is going to be a very good corner at some point in time.”

On Kenneth Scott and Brian Blechen returning from injury against Idaho State:
“Both looked good. [Scott] made that acrobatic catch in the end zone for a touchdown and he had another catch or two. He blocked efficiently. It’s not only what he does on the field with numbers, but it’s his attitude, personality, aggressiveness and toughness that he brings to the receiver position. It’s great to have him back. With Blechen, it was really the same thing. He’s a hard-nosed, tough football player. Even though his stat line wasn’t real impressive, essentially they both played half a game, it was great to have them both back. They’re both team leader. Obviously, [Blechen] being voted captain tells you what his peers think of him and [Scott] is very feisty. He’s a tough, hard-nosed kid. That attitude and the way he handles himself rubs off on the other receivers around him.”

On Travis Wilson:
“He had a very efficient first half. His numbers were excellent. He put the ball where it needed to be and made some great runs. That touchdown run where he dove into the end zone shows right there that he has no apprehension when running the football. He’s completely confident in what he’s doing.”

On Westlee Tonga:
“He made catch after catch. Again it was just a half of football, but he made a bunch of catches. He is a prolific tight end as far as the throw game. We don’t ask him to do a whole lot of blocking at the line of scrimmage.”

On Kendal Thompson:
“He had a pretty good start. He had a rough first series, that snap went over his head and we were in the wrong protection. A few things happened in the second half that were entirely not his fault, but as he settled in and the assignments were more sound, he moved the team, did a nice job, took care of the football and made a few good runs. He’s a great addition to our team.”

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