‘I believe we are a top-five team’: How the Utes are managing sky-high expectations
‘There’s no hiding from them’ says Utah coach Kyle Whittingham. ‘We’ve got to be mature enough to handle it’
Monday morning, while Utah was opening Week 2 of fall camp, the first USA Today coaches poll of the season was released.
The Utes debuted at No. 8 — their highest-ever preseason ranking.
After practice, wide receiver Devaughn Vele was told by a reporter about the poll, and where Utah was ranked.
“I don’t want to speak for the rest of the team, but me personally, I don’t like to pay attention to that because it all falls in with getting into our heads too much,” he said.
Vele also discussed the team’s approach to the high expectations.
“If we start seeing those preseason polls and all that stuff and we see that we’re No. 8, you don’t want to have that mentality,” he said. “You don’t want to get too big-headed. So I try not to pay attention to that stuff too much.”
At the same time, Vele said he recognizes that the ranking is a sign of respect for the program.
“Don’t get me wrong. It’s an honor that they view us as a top-10 team. And I believe that we are a top-10 team. Shoot, I believe we are a top-five team,” he said. “But it’s one of those things where we don’t want that to be in the front of our mind. The front of our mind should be that Florida game. Going 1-0. That’s our weekly goal.”
Utah, the defending Pac-12 champions and the preseason Pac-12 favorites, are the highest-ranked Pac-12 team. Oregon checked in at No. 12 and USC landed at No. 15.
How does coach Kyle Whittingham manage the high expectations?
“Well, you’ve got to just embrace them. They are there. There’s no hiding from them. We meet them head on and understand that we’re getting a lot of national attention,” he said. “We’ve got to be mature enough to handle it and continue to go about our business the right way and not think that we have all the answers or that we’ve arrived. But still understand that we do have high expectations with this football team this season.”