SALT LAKE CITY — There's a sizeable secret behind — make that in front of — the recent successes of quarterback Jon Hays and running back John White IV.
Utah's starting offensive line, a mass of humanity combining for nearly 32 feet of height and 1,531 pounds of weight, have made big contributions in the Utes' victories over Oregon State and Arizona.
"They deserve a lot of credit. It's a cliché that everyone says they never get enough respect, and that's true. They've done a nice job, particularly the last few weeks protecting Hays and opening holes for John White," said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham. "That's a credit to Tony Bergstrom and John Cullen, who are the senior leaders of the group, and the guys inside — Tevita Stevens, Sam Brenner and Miles Mason. Give credit to what they're doing with their work ethic and prep and all that goes into it."
Hays hasn't had a turnover and has been sacked just three times over Utah's first back-to-back victories of the season. White, meanwhile, became just the 11th player in program history to rush for 1,000 yards in a season. He reached the milestone last Saturday in Tucson.
"Obviously Jon Hays and John White have a lot to do with those numbers, John White especially with his great abilities. But as an offensive line, we take a lot of pride in that as well," Bergstrom said. "The only stat we really get is rush yards and average per carry. That's kind of the only thing we really look at and sacks. So when those are doing well, we feel like we're doing pretty well."
Things really amped up, he acknowledged, after the 34-10 loss to California on Oct. 22. Besides the realization that things needed to improve quickly, Bergstrom attributes a lot of it to guys really starting to get comfortable with the offense and just how it works.
"When you get comfortable and you get confident, then you can kind of unload a little bit more," he explained. "You're not feeling around the whole game. You're not worried about your assignment. You can unload and you can finish. So that's kind of the big thing that we're looking for now."
Bergstrom noted that the O-line has been working a lot on blitz pick-ups each day in practice. He also credits running backs White and Shawn Asiata, as well as the tight ends, for doing a great job.
Improved one-on-ones and Hays' improved play are other variables.
"Obviously you can't hold up forever and Jon's done a great job of getting it out when he has to and running when he has to," Bergstrom said.
Utes on the air
UCLA (5-4, 4-2)at UTAH (5-4, 2-4)
Saturday, 4:30 p.m.
Road graders: Utah's offensive line
Starters Plays Won-Lost Grade
RG: Sam Brenner 571 472-99 83%
RT: Tony Bergstrom 454 379-75 83%
C: Tevita Stevens 570 460-110 81%
LT: John Cullen 510 410-100 80%
LG: Miles Mason 488 371-117 76%