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Utah’s defensive dominance

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Utah linebacker Devin Lloyd pushes Oregon State’s Luke Musgrave out of bounds. Lloyd is a second-team preseason All-American.

Utah Utes linebacker Devin Lloyd pushes Oregon State tight end Luke Musgrave out of bounds at Rice Eccles stadium in Salt Lake City on Sunday, Dec. 6, 2020. Lloyd will help anchor a Ute defense that brings great expectations into the new season.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

This article was first published as the Ute Insiders newsletter. Sign up to receive the newsletter in your inbox each Wednesday night.

Year after year, the Utes put together one of the nation’s top defenses and they’ve established a reputation for putting players into the NFL.

Brandon Judd of the Deseret News wrote about coach Kyle Whittingham’s appearance on a recent episode of the 2 for 1 Drafts podcast, where Whittingham discussed the Utes’ defensive success, particularly in the secondary, and how that’s translated to success in the NFL draft. 

In the 2020 draft, for example, of the eight U. players taken, three defensive backs were taken in the first three rounds — cornerback Jaylon Johnson and safeties Julian Blackmon and Terrell Burgess.

Whittingham credited assistants defensive coordinator/safeties coach Morgan Scalley and cornerbacks coach Sharrieff Shah for finding the right type of athletes in the recruiting process.

“Those guys do a good job, first of all, of getting the right talent in the program,” Whittingham said during the podcast. “That’s the first order of business, doing your evaluations and making sure we recruit the right type of people.”

When the right recruits arrive on campus, Scalley and Shah work hard to develop them. 

“Once they get here, those two coaches do a great job of developing that talent and getting the most out of every player that we have in the secondary,” Whittingham said.

At linebacker, Utah boasts Butkus Award finalist Devin Lloyd and it is also recruiting a bunch of talented players, including four-star prospect Ethan Calvert

Meanwhile, Deseret News sports writer Jay Drew has caught up with a few former and current Runnin’ Utes, like Parker Van Dyke, Rollie Worster and Gabe Madsen.

Numbers game

14: Number of secondary players selected in the NFL rraft during the Kyle Whittingham era.

25: Jersey number to be worn this season by Rollie Worster, who transferred from Utah State to Utah. 

26.1: Points per game averaged by new Ute guard Gabe Madsen during his senior season of high school in Minnesota. 

From the archives

Extra points


Comments from Deseret News readers

Pick Six U

Most consecutive seasons with a Pick Six

17 - Utah

13 - Iowa

10 - Louisiana Tech

9 - Ohio State

8 - West Virginia

7 - App State, Miami OH, Western Kentucky

6 - Alabama

5 - Cincinnati, Colorado St, Missouri.

— Sooner_Ute

What’s made Utah so successful at turning out secondary talent for the NFL?

1. They start with good raw materials.

2. The coaches focus on technique, fundamentals and physical/mental development.

3. The players have the opportunity to get noticed by proving themselves against top competition.

— Brave_Sir_Robin

Up next

Sept. 2 | TBD | Football | vs. Weber State | @Salt Lake City