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How Utah football is viewed by other Pac-12 coaches

The Utes’ brand is ‘toughness and defense,’ an opposing coach tells Athlon Sports

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Utah Utes head coach Kyle Whittingham talks to players during the Red and White game.

Utah Utes head coach Kyle Whittingham talks to players during the Red and White game in Salt Lake City on Saturday, April 17, 2021. Other programs in the Pac-12 note the Utes’ toughness.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Kyle Whittingham’s Utah football program has a reputation around the Pac-12, one that isn’t surprising to those following the Utes for a long time. 

Athlon Sports took a look at what Pac-12 coaches said anonymously about other league programs, and one coach said the Utes are the new Stanford of the conference, “and right now they’re more talented.”  

“This team is a brand. It’s a toughness and defense,” a Pac-12 coach said of Utah. “They’re the most physical team in the conference every single year now, and they’re one of the meanest in the game. This is all Whit (Kyle Whittingham); it’s his mindset, it’s his attitude. ‘Mental toughness’ is a cliche but Whit has those guys ready. They’re even, never too high or low.”

Utah’s 2021 projections

The Utes went 3-2 during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, and during a three-game winning streak to end the year, Utah showed promise from a young lineup, particularly on defense.

Utah is projected to finish second in the Pac-12 South in the league’s media preseason poll. Whittingham compared the leadership on this year’s team to the 2019 squad, which won the Pac-12 South title and climbed into the nation’s top-10 rankings during an 11-3 campaign.

“We have no shortage of leadership on this team,” he said last week after the first day of fall camp. “This feels a lot like the ’19 team in a lot of regards.”

Observations about Utah’s offense

Andy Ludwig is heading into his third year as Utah’s offensive coordinator in 2021. His work in crafting the Utes’ spread offense was recognized, too.

“(Andy) Ludwig is coming along with the offensive side, they’re starting to build their own brand there, too. You see consistency in the calls,” the Athlon Sports article read. “Again, you know what they are when you go in: they’re built by their running game, with the backs and with QB run and moving the pocket. That works because they’re usually good up front, and when they can run steady they’re going to work you as much as they can with play action. It’s one of the best matches to a defense of any offense in the Power 5.

“If you’ve seen Charlie Brewer’s tape from Baylor you should be scared playing these guys. It’s never a guarantee that a grad transfer locks in right away, but these pieces fit, man. If Brewer plays like he did when (Matt) Rhule was still at Baylor, this team can win the conference.”