Kyle Whittingham: '(UCLA) really has no weaknesses right now' (+video/audio)

Full transcript of Utah football's Monday press conference

Published: Monday, Sept. 30 2013 3:10 p.m. MDT

Kyle Whittingham press conference, 9/30/13, prior to UCLA

KW: Well, I think Thursday games are good for exposure. You have the chance to be on national television. You don't want to make a habit of it. I think that one or two a season is plenty. Academics is obviously a concern. That's right in the middle of your academic week. Coming off the bye week, it's a level playing field where both teams are in the same situation, so I don't see any advantage or disadvantage for that.

Now, back in the previous years, there have been situations where you're coming off a bye week and the other team isn't or vice-versa, which makes things a little bit different, but I don't think it's a big issue. I think we're both on the same footing.

Reporter: What makes (UCLA's) Anthony Barr such a special player?

KW: Well, he's explosive. He's instinctive. He does it all. He's just a player that has a great motor and great skill set, fundamentally and technically sound, and he's a force. No doubt about it.

Reporter: What position matchup are you guys going to have to focus in on Thursday in order to have a chance in this game?

KW: Well, I think it starts at the line of scrimmage like it does most weeks. If our defensive line can do a good job putting pressure on the quarterback like we have done so far this season — we're second in the league, I think, in sacks, first in the league in sacks per game. If that can continue, if we can continue to win the line of scrimmage … and then it goes for both sides. Offensively we need to protect Travis and open some holes for the run game. I think most weeks that is the key matchup, and I don't see that being any different.

Reporter: The spotlight's really been on the secondary from the preseason until now. What sort of progress have you seen from them, especially after the BYU game?

KW: We're definitely taking steps forward in a lot of areas. The Oregon State game was a point where we gave up a bunch. Now, if you've followed Oregon State, he's doing that every week. I mean, (Sean) Mannion did it again Saturday — he threw for 420 or something like that. It's not something that he hasn't done to everybody.

But, to answer your question, I think we've made strides. We've got four or five guys that we feel comfortable with right now. The group has really separated itself. It's become apparent as to who the guys are that are ready to play and who's not quite as ready.

Reporter: Coach, you talked about UCLA's national rankings and the fact that it's a nationally televised game. What have you seen from your guys over the last couple of days of practice showing how amped up they are for this scenario?

KW: Their work ethic at practice has been excellent — their focus, their concentration. … And the week before the best it’s been in a long time, and this past week has really been similar to what we had going into the rivalry game as far as the quality of practices.

There's an air of confidence about the team, and we know we've got to get things rolling in the Pac-12, but right now, we feel like we've made big steps as to who we are — our identity, what we're good at, what we're not so good at.

Reporter: Coach, over the first few games you've emphasized creating turnovers on your defense. Could you give us a progress report in how the defense is doing and how you're working to perhaps take a way a few from UCLA?

KW: Yeah, we're working on that constantly throughout the entire practice. There is no one period devoted to it. It's a constant throughout practice, stripping the ball out and getting the ball out of the air interception-wise.

We did come up with an interception in the rivalry game. We're still way behind where we'd like to be in takeaways. But with the offense doing such a good job taking care of the football, that has not been really magnified as it could have been if the offense wasn't doing such a great job with our ball security.

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