Kyle Whittingham not reminiscing about his 10th season at the helm of the Utes
Ravell Call, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — If you think Kyle Whittingham is taking time to celebrate or reminisce as he enters his 10th season as head coach of the Utah Utes, think again.
“Not at all,” he said when asked if the impending milestone has even crossed his mind. “Not at all.”
Whittingham did, however, acknowledge what it feels like to be at the helm of the program for nearly a decade.
“In ways it seems like a hundred years and in ways it seems like just a few years,” he said. “So I guess it’s just what day you catch me on and how things are going.”
Taking time to reflect, Whittingham insists, never enters the equation. He claims to take things just “one day at a time.”
Since serving as Utah’s co-head coach with Urban Meyer in the 2005 Fiesta Bowl victory over Pittsburgh, Whittingham has led the Utes to 75 other victories. The biggest of them all was a 31-17 win over Alabama in the 2009 Sugar Bowl. It capped a 13-0 season and lifted the Utes to No. 2 in the final Associated Press rankings.
Whittingham received the Paul “Bear” Bryant Award and was named National Coach of the Year by the American Football Coaches Association.
“Kyle Whittingham, without hesitation, is one of the top coaches in America,” said Meyer, who won two national championships at Florida and is now at Ohio State.
Meyer acknowledged that Whittingham has a massive challenge in overseeing the Utes' move from the Mountain West Conference to the Pac-12.
“It’s an absolute grind,” said Meyer, who noted perhaps the biggest issue in moving into one of the nation’s power conferences. “Every week you’re facing a team that’s as even as you or sometimes more talented than you. It takes a while to develop depth.”
However, he added, good things are still happening — on any given day — as Utah does so.
“They beat Stanford last year,” Meyer said. “I talked to the coach at Stanford (David Shaw) and he said: ‘They beat us.’”
High praise aside, there’s still a reality to deal with until a more even playing field is reached.
“So the difference between, obviously, a smaller conference and the Pac-12 is it’s every week you have to be ready,” Meyer said. “An injury here, an injury there, and you’re not ready.”
Pac-12 Networks analyst Rick Neuheisel, who has coached three teams in the conference, agrees with Meyer. He said many people don’t realize how big of a “week-in-and-week-out grind” of a level shift Utah has faced in moving into the Pac-12.
“It changes your depth as well because attrition is part of this game,” Neuheisel explained. “So when you lose your front-line players and you’re still playing the caliber of talent that exists in the Pac-12 it becomes very difficult.”
As time passes, however, there’s an evolution taking place. Neuheisel said that Utah’s recruiting is getting better, citing the addition of players from places like Florida and Louisiana. Being in a Power 5 conference with a chance to play for a national championship — at a school with great facilities — is enticing to recruits.
“The sky’s the limit for what Utah can accomplish,” Neuheisel continued. “They certainly have a great coaching staff and as I said they’re in more homes than they’ve ever been before. ... I see nothing but good things.”
And there’s a proven winner at the top in Whittingham.
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