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Coaches' Corner: Jim Harding and Lewis Powell

Nov 2, 2021

SALT LAKE CITY - Tuesday means it's time for Coaches' Corner, and this week we head in the trenches to visit with Utah offensive line coach Jim Harding and defensive ends coach Lewis Powell.

Utah (5-3, 4-1 Pac-12) is continuing prep for a Friday night tilt at Stanford (3-5, 2-4 Pac-12), another key conference tilt. Game time is slated for 8:30 p.m. MT with FS1 televising the matchup.

Offensive Line Coach Jim Harding

On the offensive line last week in the UCLA game…
"We understood that UCLA has a really good defense. We knew that the statistics would say they are very tough in the run, and so we talked about it all week. I think our kids accepted that challenge. There were certainly a lot of things we've got to clean up, but in terms of just being physical, I think they were definitely doing that Saturday night."
 
On Nick Ford's versatility on the line…
"I think he's started at least one game at every single position. In terms of football IQ and things like that, I could probably think of one other guy that is on par with him. He knows so much, he certainly keeps me on my toes if I misspeak, he has no problem correcting me. He's like another coach on the field. I do believe he's suited better for being an inside player, but it's nice to have the luxury of him bouncing outside if we run into some injuries or performance issues. He's been a huge asset for us through the years."
 
On Paul Maile going to center vs. UCLA…
"I'd be hard-pressed to think of a time I was more proud of any lineman since I've been here. That's a kid that's done everything we've asked in the program, busted his tail, and waited his turn. Especially in the age of the transfer portal and things like that, certainly you could see him getting frustrated from time to time. But he just stuck with it. We've got to fix his snaps, and there's some technique things that we have to get better at this week. But I couldn't be more happy for a kid. It's really what this program is all about. Respect the process, trust it, buy your time and stay patient, which is very hard these days. Your number is going to get called eventually in a big-time game. I thought he made all of our calls, there weren't communication errors. I could keep going on and on. Really proud of that kid and happy for him."
 
On the overall progress of the entire line…
"I just think that, and it is an excuse, there were a lot of injuries early. I think now that [our group] has gotten in a groove, they know what their role is on the team and in the offensive line. Everybody's accepted that, and it's really a next-man-up mentality. We found out that Keaton Bills was going to be down on Monday, and right then we said 'here's the lineup'. Everybody went with it, and from Monday on, they prepared together and were ready to go. The kids have been through so much, obviously with Aaron Lowe and going back to Ty Jordan. These kids are unfazed by what's going on on the field. It's a lot of credit to Coach Whitt. Just in terms of 'hey, we just gotta keep plodding through whatever's thrown our way.' I think that's what this group has done. We have to continue do it. We can say we have all the answers up front, but we don't. This week will be a completely different challenge."
 
On Stanford…
"They're bigger size-wise. They've prided themselves through the years on being physical. Statistically, they're not what UCLA is. But we don't care about the statistics, good or bad. We're expecting that it's going to be a dog fight on Friday night, and our kids have to be ready to go physically."
 
Defensive Ends Coach Lewis Powell

On the defensive line Saturday in contrast to Oregon State two weeks ago…
"I kind of already forgot about what happened last week. I feel like those guys got better, but shoot, all our focus right now in on Stanford. We're excited to get the guys going and get to Palo Alto, and hopefully repeat what we did last week."
 
On Stanford's offensive line…
"Those guys are always able to recruit nationally-ranked offensive linemen. They're always big, they're always physical, they're always well-coached. It's going to be a challenge, but we're excited and I can't wait to watch the guys play."
 
On the overall progress of the group…
"I feel like Mika Tafua has come to have a good understanding of what he needs to do to become an elite pass rusher. He continues to show that every single week. Van Fillinger has become a pretty solid starter. We're using Xavier Carlton as a hybrid inside and outside, and he continues to get better. As a group, I feel like the guys are getting better every single day. It's good to see the young guys continue to excel and get better every single week."
 
On what is setting Jonah Elliss apart from the rest of the group…
"He's pretty athletic and strong enough and stout to play as a knockback defensive end. He's gained like 12 pounds since he moved to defensive end, and he's only going to continue to gain weight. Both of his older brothers did the same thing, and both are in the NFL. Hopefully he follows the same footsteps."
 
On the youth among the group developing…
"It's been good because we have a mix of guys with experience and younger guys that are eager to continue to get better with Van Fillinger, Xavier Carlton, Miki Suguturaga and Jonah Elliss. You get to watch what Mika Tafua does and how he does it. They see it on the field, they see it in the film room. Those guys just got to continue to get better. Things that we work on in practice, they just need to turn over to the game. We feel comfortable that they will continue to get better."
 
On how to evaluate and assess a defensive line…
"For us up front, and as a defense, we always want to stop the run first. I'm not sure how many sacks [we have], but I know that guys are getting up there in the conference. That's awesome, but we have to stop the run first. When we stop the run, the sacks will come. We've got to be more consistent stopping the run."

Previous Editions of Coaches' Corner

Oct. 26 - Sione Po'uha (DTs) and Freddie Whittingham (TEs)
Oct. 19 - Kiel McDonald (RBs) and Colton Swan (LBs)
Oct. 13 - Chad Bumphis (WRs) and Sharrieff Shah (CBs/Special Teams)
Oct. 5 - Jim Harding (OL) and Lewis Powell (DEs)
Sept. 22 - Sione Po'uha (DTs) and Freddie Whittingham (TEs)
Sept. 14 Kiel McDonald (RBs) and Colton Swan (LBs)
Sept. 7 - Andy Ludwig (OC/QBs) and Morgan Scalley (DC/Safeties)