Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
Utah coach Kyle Whittingham was elated that Utah defensive lineman Lowell Lotulelei decided to return for his senior season rather than opting for the NFL draft.

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said he was elated when Lowell Lotulelei opted to return to the Utes and not enter the NFL draft.

“I think it was a good decision for him. He was playing hurt last year and he’s completely healthy now,” Whittingham said early on in camp. “And he, in my opinion, is one of the best defensive tackles in the country and he’s a team leader.”

Whittingham added that the combination of seniors Lotulelei and Filipo Mokofisi gives the Utes a “formidable set of tackles.”

The 6-foot-2, 326-pound Lotulelei is an All-America candidate. The three-time Pac-12 all-conference honoree has career totals of 18 tackles for loss and eight sacks. He’s the younger brother of former Utah standout Star Lotulelei of the NFL’s Carolina Panthers.

“There is a lot of similarities as far as how good they are. They’re both exceptionally talented,” Whittingham said. “Lowell’s his own guy. He’s not Star’s little brother. He’s Lowell Lotulelei and he’s a guy that really has grown in this program. He’s been in the program a long time and he’s really grown and developed.”

TALKING TAYLOR: Utah offensive coordinator Troy Taylor has been popular with the large media contingent that has been covering camp. One day, he was asked if he had any clichés ready.

“I’ve got a bunch of them. I’m ready to use them and I just hope I pull them out at the appropriate time,” Taylor replied. “Good Lord willing. I think everything will work ... oh, I was too early, OK.”

DETERMINED QB: Returning starter Troy Williams has no intention of giving up the position he’s had for the last 13 games.

“I want to keep this job,” Williams said. “It’s my last year, so I have big plans trying to go to that next level and provide for my family.”

4 comments on this story

As such, Williams added that he’s taking the competition with Tyler Huntley and Cooper Bateman as seriously as possible.

IMPROVEMENT MADE: Whittingham explained how Huntley has improved his game and has evolved after appearing in just four games as a true freshman.

“He was a little bit reckless with the ball. He was a little bit of a loose cannon in a way and he’s cleaned that all up. He is now taking care of the football,” Whittingham said. “He’s not trying to force a play when there’s not one there to be made and so the things that were holding him back last year he’s fixed this year.”