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Utah football: Urban Meyer stops by practice, speaks to team

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The University of Utah’s co-head coach Urban Meyer shouts on the sidelines during the seconde half of the 2005 Fiesta Bowl in Tempe, AZ, Jan 1, 2005. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred/Deseret News

Jeffrey D. Allred

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah football had a special guest at Wednesday’s practice.

Former Ute coach Urban Meyer was on hand to check out practice and speak to the team.

“Great to see him and spend time with him. I guess we’ll see a lot of him on TV now, in the FOX studios,” head coach Kyle Whittingham said.

Bo Nagahi and John Madsen, stars of the 2004 team, also came to catch up with their old coach.

“He’s just passing through, visiting. He was in Salt Lake for a couple days and I just invited him to speak to the team after practice. We also had Bo Nagahi here and John Madsen, some of our former players. It was great to have him back and say a few words to the team,” Whittingham said.

Whittingham — the defensive coordinator on Meyer’s staff — reminisced fondly on Meyer’s time at Utah. After Meyer arrived in 2003, the Utes went 10-2, claiming the Mountain West championship outright and picking up a Liberty Bowl win. The next year would vault Utah into the history books as the Utes went 12-0 and became the first team not from a BCS conference to play in a BCS bowl game, as the Utes defeated Pittsburgh in the Fiesta Bowl.

Three players that played for Meyer —defensive linemen Sione Po’uha and Lewis Powell and defensive back Morgan Scalley — now coach alongside Whittingham at Utah.

“I can’t believe it, when you sit and think about it. Those memories come back. We’ve got Sione Po’uha who was on that team and (Morgan) Scalley who was on that team, Lewis Powell. It’s great to see all those guys get back together,” Whittingham said.

Whittingham also noted that Meyer was impressed with Utah’s new facility and stadium upgrades.

PREPARING FOR BYU: About a week out from traveling down to Provo, Whittingham admitted that it’s not the usual season opener for the Utes. 

“I think psychologically, when you play a rivalry game, or Michigan, or a game of that caliber, it certainly gets their attention, more so than if you’re playing a lesser opponent. We don’t change anything; our process is what it is and we continue to go through the routine that we’ve gone through every year. There’s a little more emotion there, a little more intensity because of the nature of the first opponent,” Whittingham said.

Utah’s head coach also had some praise for BYU quarterback Zach Wilson.

“He’s got a strong arm, quick release, goes through his read progression very well, makes good decisions. The thing that hurt us last year, which was kind of under the radar and didn’t get a lot of notoriety, was his running. We let him out of that pocket four or five times and he did some damage in that regard, so that’s got to be something that we get cleaned up this year,” Whittingham said.

EXTRA POINTS: Whittingham said that the team is excited for Britain Covey’s return. “I’m excited to watch him play. It’s great to have him back. We missed him in the bowl game and we’re just excited for his return,” he said … Whittingham noted that Andrew Strauch is the team’s backup punter.