View from the Booth: Kyle Whittingham knows where to put talent
SALT LAKE CITY —
Here's a little quiz for you, What do Chris Kemoeatu, Sean Smith, Paul Solai, Morgan Scalley, Paul Kruger and many more have in common?
Aside from the fact that they all had stellar careers while playing for the Utes, all of those guys began their career on one side of the line of scrimmage only to finish their careers on the other. One of the many outstanding skill sets that Kyle Whittingham possesses is the ability to spot talent and find the right place to put that talent on the field.
Whether as an assistant coach or head coach, Whittingham has always been an outstanding recruiter and spotter of talent. The one thing that you will always hear him preach is recruiting the best athletes, then worrying later about where to put them on the field.
We saw this last season with Brian Blechen, who was recruited as a quarterback, then moved to safety and thrived there as a freshman. This season Ute fans will be seeing that switch again, with Blechen moving from safety to linebacker, where he is expected to start.
There will also be another former offensive skill guy making the move to the defensive side of the football this fall. Mo Lee, who entered the program last fall as a wide receiver, has made the transition to corner this season, and right now the move looks to be a wise one for both Lee and the Utes.
Lee is pushing right now for playing time in the secondary and Whittingham says he's never seen a player make a smoother transition from wide receiver to corner in his career. Whittingham says that level of willingness on the players' part is one of the big reasons why a move from offense to defense or vice versa is usually successful or not so much.
Much like Sean Smith four years ago, Lee embraced the opportunity and so far has thrived for Kalani Sitake's defense.
Will there be more players making the move from offense to defense this fall? That remains to be seen. But based on history and Whittingham's keen eye, I wouldn't bet against it.
There is very little doubt right now that Utah's biggest question/issue in camp is offensive line play/pass protection, and Whittingham has said as much on multiple occasions this week.
But not everyone is so concerned.
"It's camp, people get hurt, people get banged up, people just need to rest and heal up," said offensive tackle John Cullen. "We will be fine."
That's the optimistic view from a guy in the middle of it. Let's just say this, IF the Utes get a healthy Sam Brenner and Percy Taumoelau back in the next week, things should be OK and the offense will function fine. If the injuries along that line linger, then it could be an adventure for Jordan Wynn and the offense after the opener against Montana State.
Just a reminder that you'll hear all the games this fall on ESPN 700. I will be joined again this season by the best partners in the business and two great Utes: Frank Dolce and Sharrief Shah. They'll join me on game days to bring you all the action on the radio as the Utes begin this new journey into the Pac-12.
Bill Riley can be heard as the voice of the University of Utah on gamedays and also on weekdays from 2-6 p.m. on the "Bill and Spence Show" on ESPN Radio 700 AM.
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