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What are the keys for the Utes to have a special season? Here’s what Kyle Whittingham thinks

For Utah to break through and win its first Pac-12 title, Utes coach says three things must happen

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Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham answers questions during the Pac-12 Conference football media day Tuesday, July 27, 2021.

Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham answers questions during the Pac-12 football media day Tuesday, July 27, 2021, in Los Angeles.

Marcio Jose Sanchez, Associated Press

Utah captured the Pac-12 South Division title in back-to-back years, in 2018 and 2019, but it fell in the Pac-12 championship game in both those seasons. 

For the Utes to break through and win their first Pac-12 title, what needs to happen?

Coach Kyle Whittingham said during Pac-12 football media day Tuesday that he loves his team’s depth — and that’s a good place to start. 

“Then another factor that is present every single year, if you’re going to have one of those championship teams, you’ve got to be able to stay healthy,” he explained. “That’s sometimes beyond your control.”

Utah went undefeated in both 2004 and 2008, before it joined the Pac-12. 

“If you look back, we’ve had two really elite teams at Utah over the past 15, 20 years — the ’04 team, the ’08 team — both those years, if my memory serves me correct, we started the same 22 guys in the bowl game as we did the first game in the season,” Whittingham said. “Staying healthy, getting breaks along the way, having depth — three big factors in having a special season.”

Wide receiver Britain Covey added another factor — leadership. 

“The best teams are player-led,” he said. “When you can get your leaders back, and there’s a group of leaders on the team, I think that makes for a very good atmosphere and culture.”

Covey added that there’s a culture within the program to be ready for any challenge. When asked, Covey characterized Utah’s football program. 

“We would never back down from any fight. That’s the mentality of Utah football,” he said. “You could put the best team in the country against us and you’d see a fight. I’m not saying we’re going to beat the best team in the country but we would never back down from any kind of fight.”