July 26, 2013
COACH WHITTINGHAM: Great to be here. We're excited to get the season started after a disappointing season last year. Missed a Bowl game for the first time in a lot of years - 10, 12 years. It was foreign to us and we didn't like it at all. I got a bunch of texts during the Bowl season from our players how disappointed they were not being there and how they didn't want that to happen again. Hopefully we will get our deficiencies corrected. And we've had some staff changes - brought on Dennis Erickson to help us jump-start the offense. If you look last year at our three main deficiencies, the throw game offensively, and the red zone defense and lack of takeaways. In a nutshell, that was our biggest issues but we are excited this season. We feel we have improved ourselves in a lot of areas. Going to the Pac-12, we knew it was going to be a transition and a process, and a work in progress, I guess you could say. I feel we've had two outstanding recruiting classes, back-to-back. Hopefully that will start to manifest this year. I got to tell you, having the Pac-12 logo on our sleeves and the BCS conference affiliation, the vast majority of the guys we signed the last two classes, we would not have had a chance at getting had we not been in that situation.
Everything's been ramped up. We just moved into a new facility, moved into it last week, 150,000 square feet; the old one was 35,000 or thereabouts. So a lot of good things happening and we're excited to get the season underway and get back on track and win ballgames like we're used to.
COACH WHITTINGHAM: Well, one of the issues we have had the last four seasons - we have had some pretty good years, with the exception of last year, but we have not been able to start and finish a season with the same quarterback for four straight years, that's been a definite liability for us. Brian Johnson in '08 was the last quarterback that we had that was able to do that. So we have to get some continuity and consistency at that position. We hope Travis Wilson is going to bring that to us. He's a big kid. He's about 6-6, 245 pounds. We feel he's made tremendous strides. We got him in January of 2012 as a true freshman that graduated early from highschool. He was about 200 pounds then; he's made a lot of progress in the last 18 months, both physically and mentally. And right now, he's our guy, and we're expecting him to be a leader for us. He did end up starting the last six or seven ballgames last year, got good experience. But we need him to hit the ground running this fall and be a leader for our offense and for the football team.
Q. Coach, how does it make you feel as a coach to see previous players like Eric Weddle prosper and do you guys talk?
COACH WHITTINGHAM: Makes me feel great. Eric Weddle is one of the top players that has come through our program in the last five, 10 years and we talk regularly, regularly being a couple times a month. Proud of what he's accomplished and we're proud of the number of players that we have put in the NFL. We're fourth or fifth in the Pac-12 as far as current players on NFL rosters and that's important to us and we take pride in that.
Eric is as good of a football player as he is, he's an even better person and that's something I can say without hesitation, and he's given back to the program and been a great ambassador for us. One thing Coach Erickson said, he's been with us for about six months now and he said we have a special thing in Utah with our alumni and players wanting to come back and give back to the program and have a great feeling towards the program after they leave. And he put some perspective on that for me because I've been at Utah for about 20 years and don't have a lot perspective on that issue. Eric has done a great job of sticking with the program and giving back and being part of what we're doing.
Q. We have a fan question for you, Coach, from Facebook. You addressed what the Pac-12 meant for your recruiting process but he wants to know who specifically do you think you were able to land because of your Pac-12 affiliation? COACH WHITTINGHAM: About three-quarters of the guys we've signed in the last two years. Guys like Jeremiah Poutasi, Kelvin York that had many, many upper-echelon Division I , BCS offers and the list goes on and on. I can say, relative to recruiting in the last 10 years, there is no question it's been a huge spike in our recruiting the last two years and I attribute it to the Pac-12 affiliation.
Q. Coach, last year you talked about the line and the linebackers being a big area of concern going into the season. What are those areas of concern going into this one?
COACH WHITTINGHAM: Without a doubt, the two main areas are cornerback and specialist. We are rebuilding the cornerback position. We play a lot of three-corner defensive schemes, a nickel package type schemes and the three corners that played for us last year were all seniors and they played 95% of the snaps during the course of the season. So it's a complete rebuild at the corner position. We have a lot of talented players in the program at that position but very few have played any snaps in the Division I game. So that's an area of concern and as much "man" defense as we play and as much as our defense success hinges on that, that's got to be an area that gets up to speed very quickly in fall camp and early in the season.
We then also lost our punter, place kicker, our long snapper and our kick-off guy and our return guy, Reggie Dunn who was among the top in the nation for kick-off returns. So we've got to rebuild and reload in those positions and those are by far the groups on the team that we have to address and take care of immediately.
THE MODERATOR: All right, gentlemen, thank you for your time.