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Utah Utes football: Utes excel when they have extra preparation time

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah coach Kyle Whittingham doesn't use a wand or pull rabbits out of his hat.

Whittingham does, however, have a practice model in place to prepare the Utes for games with extra preparation time. Since October of 2007, they've won 13 straight contests when given more than a week to size up the opposition. The streak includes three bowl victories and a pair of season openers.

"I don't believe it's any magic in the practice plan," he said. "I think it's the way our players go about it."

And that, Whittingham insists, is the secret to Utah's success.

"It kind of falls into the category of the bowl game situation where our guys really do a good job preparing. They take each practice very seriously and work hard," he said. "I think that really is the difference. I don't think there's any special way that we go about our business. It's how our players go about their business."

DEPTH CHARTING: All things considered, Whittingham noted that the depth chart is about where he needs it to be with the season opener just over one week away.

While acknowledging that a couple of position battles were still ongoing, he added that contenders may each be given an opportunity to see how they perform against Pitt.

PRACTICE REPORT: There was nothing cool or unusual about practice. Whittingham called it a "typical Tuesday" when asked how things went.

"It's a grind-it-out Tuesday. It's full gear and it's hot," he said. "It is what it is and they've got to push through it."

SHOWING RESPECT: Whittingham had kind things to say about Pittsburgh coach Dave Wannstedt, who held top posts with the NFL's Chicago Bears and Miami Dolphins before taking the helm of the Panthers.

"I don't know him personally but I've observed his career take shape. He's an excellent football coach, obviously, he's been at every level and he's really turned that Pitt program around," Whittingham said. "He's got them right where they need to be right now. They're in great shape. They're picked to win the Big East this year and (Wannstedt) really has returned that program to prominence."

After struggling his first three seasons, Wannstedt has guided Pitt (his alma mater) to a 19-7 mark over the past two years.

OUT OF THE PIT: Offensive lineman Kapua Sai returned to action after tweaking his knee earlier this month. He's No. 2 on the depth chart at right tackle.

"He's a young freshman that we think has a lot of promise," Whittingham said. "It really hurt him to miss those two weeks of camp because he was really starting to progress."