Why Kyle Whittingham calls the Utes ‘the most diverse team in America’
Ute coach has built his program on a foundation of recruiting the right players, developing talent and accomplishing more with less
With the way Utah recruits, coach Kyle Whittingham says his program is a true melting pot.
According to Whittingham, it’s unlike any other program in the country.
“We’re a unique team, the most diverse team in America,” he said. “We have almost exactly one-third African American, one-third Polynesian, one-third Caucasian, which not one team in the country can make that claim as far as the ratio. The Polynesian aspect has been a huge reason for our success.”
Whittingham has built his program on a foundation of recruiting the right players, developing talent and accomplishing more with less. The Utes captured the Pac-12 South title in 2018 and 2019 and from 2016-20 they had 21 NFL draft picks, the most in the league.
“We’re a unique team, the most diverse team in America. We have almost exactly one-third African American, one-third Polynesian, one-third Caucasian, which not one team in the country can make that claim as far as the ratio. The Polynesian aspect has been a huge reason for our success.” — Utah coach Kyle Whittingham
At Pac-12 media day, Whittingham was asked about the secret behind his success.
“Bringing good players into the program is the No. 1 secret to that. I think that really speaks to our assistant coaches. They’re the ones on the front lines, going out and evaluating and projecting the talent that we’re looking for,” Whittingham said. “Recruiting, at least for us, is more a projection. It’s not where is the player now, but where is he going to be in two or three years.
“I know our assistants have done a phenomenal job of finding those, I don’t want to call them diamonds in the rough, but the guys with the big upside that we can bring into the program, develop them, make them into the type of players we need them to be, maximize their potential,” he continued. “Another big part of that is our strength program. We have a phenomenal strength program. We get guys coming into our program at 6-foot-5, 215 pounds, two years later they’re 270 pounds. Our strength staff deserves a great deal of the credit for that.”
With the transfer portal, Utah has been bringing in even more talent.
Since the end of last season, the Utes have signed several players from Power Five programs, including quarterbacks Charlie Brewer and Ja’Quinden Jackson; running backs T.J. Pledger and Chris Curry; linebacker Josh Calvert; and wide receiver Theo Howard.
“The transfer portal is one of those things, something like the NIL, is really impactful, has changed college football to a certain extent. I liken it to the high school is your draft, the transfer portal is your free agents,” Whittingham said. “If you have an immediate need, if you lose a guy or two in the transfer portal at a certain position group, you need to supplement what you have, those are guys that are expected to come in and help immediately. They’re not developmental guys, not guys that are going to come in and develop for two years. Most of them only have one year left.
“That’s something where if you have an immediate need, unforeseen circumstances arise, you go to the portal,” the U. coach continued. “For us, we’ve lost two or three guys in the portal, but we’ve gained far more than we lost. I know the net result for us at Utah through the portal has been a plus. We’re on the plus side of that ledger.”
Utah’s defense is consistently one of the nation’s best, led by a dominant defensive line.
“Through recruiting and through evaluation, we’ve just developed a reputation,” Whittingham said. “I guess you could say that if you want to be at one of the elite defensive line schools in the country, we’re definitely in that conversation.”