Whittingham, Utah eager to get back to bowl game
Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham remembers getting texts from his players during bowl season last year. The players told him how disappointed they were and how they wanted to get back to the postseason after the program missed out on a bowl game for the first time in 10 years.
On Friday at Pac-12 Football Media Day in Culver City, Calif., Whittingham was blunt about last year’s 5-7 campaign, calling it “disappointing” and “very foreign to us.”
The Utes averaged 9.5 wins per season during Whittingham’s first six years at the helm, but that was all in the Mountain West. Now entering its third year in the conference, Utah is not projected to challenge for the Pac-12 title according to the preseason media poll, which places the squad fifth in the South Division.
“Going into the Pac-12, we knew it was going to be a transition and a work in progress,” Whittingham said, adding that having that conference logo has helped the program sign about three-fourths of its players the last three years.
Still, the conference is not the only reason Utah has fallen from the nation’s elite. For the last four years, the squad has been unable to start and finish the season with the same quarterback, Whittingham said.
“We’ve got to get some continuity and consistency at that position,” he said. “We hope Travis Wilson is going to bring that to us. Right now he’s our guy.”
The 6-foot-6 Wilson started the last seven games of his freshman campaign, with an encouraging 62.7 completion percentage but an ugly 7:6 touchdown-to-interception ratio.
Utah’s two biggest question marks going into the season, according to Whittingham, are the cornerbacks and specialists. The Utes utilize three corner and nickel package defensive schemes, but their three top corners from last year all were seniors. Calling the position a “complete rebuild,” Whittingham said that his defensive backs are talented but inexperienced.
Replacing returner Reggie Dunn, who returned four kickoffs for touchdowns, will also be a necessary task for Utah to return to the postseason.