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July 24, 2012

Star Lotulelei

John White

Kyle Whittingham


COACH WHITTINGHAM:テつ We're looking forward to our second go‑round in the Pac‑12.テつ Looking at last year, it was about what we expected, I don't think anything caught us by surprise or off guard.テつ We expected a bunch of good players in the league, which we got.テつ Seems like every week we are facing a great running back, receiving core, quarterback, and I would say without a doubt it was as we expected it to be.
We're excited about our second opportunity, and we're excited about the opportunity and having gone through it the one time we're looking forward to this year.テつ We have a lot of returning starters, a lot of experience coming back, in a bunch of different areas.テつ I think we have helped ourselves at quarterback, we have Jordan win back our starter, and Jon Hays, we added to that Travis Wilson, Chase Hansen, two outstanding freshmen and we went from a "lean" position to one that is strong now on the football team.
John White, got him back for this year, receivers have good depth, interior line and center is solid.テつ We're making sure we get that into line.テつ Defensively we expect to be strong, again, by Star Lotulelei, he was voted the best linemen in the Pac‑12 last year, winning the Morris Trophy, got some special things going for us.テつ Our holders, snappers, kickers, they're all back in place so we feel like we have a solid chance this year to compete in the south.テつ We had some coaching changes, new offensive coordinator, Brian Johnson, youngest offensive coordinator in the country, he's going to take over the reigns of the offense, had two other coaching changes, and all in all excited to be here and we start practice August2nd and away we go.テつ Questions?

Q.テつ Kyle, what do you expect from the offense under Brian and how do you feel he's fared so far?
COACH WHITTINGHAM:テつ First of all, we expect to be one prolific team on offense, we think with we have to be, if we're going to win the Pac‑12 south which is our goal it's got to be more than just great defense.テつ We need more production offensively.テつ Brian has tweaked things, we're gravitating back to what we do prior to norm's arrival, that's a spread to the offense, get the ball in space a little more, and that's got to happen.テつ If we're going to contend we need to be more productive on offense than we were last year.

Q.テつ Star, could you describe or explain why you decided to come back and what were you told, how high would you have gone in the draft this year had you gone?
STAR LOTULELEI:テつ My decision for coming back, I talked it over with my family.テつ We decided it was the best thing for me, because I didn't feel like I was are ready to take the next step yet.テつ There is still a lot of things I need to work on as a football player.テつ As far as knowing where I would go, I didn't ask, I had my decision made and that's what I went with.

Q.テつ Coach, you mentioned you have the youngest coordinator in Brian Johnson.テつ Could you talk about the decision to promote him and were you planning on doing that after Coach left the program all along?
COACH WHITTINGHAM:テつ Brian is a special kid.テつ He's been ahead of the curve.テつ He signed with us as a 16 year old senior out of Texas.テつ He's a guy that's used to being ahead, he got to kindergarten and a week or two later he was promoted to the second grade, that's just the kind of kid he is.テつ When Norm left, I knew Brian was a strong candidate, as was Aaron Roderick, another coach on our staff and when all was said and done it was apparent to me that Brian and Aaron were the two best candidates and struggled with the youthfulness of Brian but bottom line is he was the best man for the job and what we needed at the time and the way he handled himself as a quarterback.
I see the same qualities and the demeanor in him, I know he hasn't called a game yet, there are a lot of things that are going to transpire in the future that he's never been to, but how he relates to the players, his grasp of the offense, the way he called the scrimmages, which is as close to game simulation as you can get, was all very positive.

Q.テつ Coach, with Brian having just recently led the team to the Sugar Bowl and undefeated season, how do you feel like that resonates with the players being in such recent history almost as one of their contemporary?
COACH WHITTINGHAM:テつ You know, it's a double‑edged sword in certain ways, number 1 it's a positive in a respect that he can relate to the players, he understands what they're going through, what they're thinking, how they're thinking.
On the other side of the coin it's really holding true for my young coach you have to make sure you keep that separation between coach and player.テつ There are a few guys on the roster that were on the team when he was the quarterback in '08, it was the season of '08 where he was the quarterback for us and the Sugar Bowl in Jan of '09.
But there are only a handful of guys on the team that were his teammates and I think he's handled it well.テつ I think he understands the separation and not crossing the line as far as player/coach and making sure he keeps that division.テつ In recruiting, it's similar in that he's able to relate to the recruits and he's had a very good start as a recruiter, signed good players over the last couple of years.

Q.テつ Kyle, what's your expectation for Junior Salt?
COACH WHITTINGHAM:テつ Junior Salt, he's going to be next to Star right here, and he brings an exceptional talent to that group and we have always‑‑ in the last 8, 9, 10 years we have played a bunch of defensive linemen.テつ If we have 10 players they're all going to play so it gives us another guy that we have confidence in and keeping the guys fresh, defensive line is a demanding position and if you can rotate guys through there, that's to your advantage and we think Junior is in the same mold that all the other linemen that have come through here, we have put 10 or 12 in the pros over the last couple of years and Junior is right there with those guys.

Q.テつ Star, people probably tell you that the draft board has you in the top‑5, number 1, how does that affect you?テつ Is it tough to deal with that high?
STAR LOTULELEI:テつ Not tough.テつ Trying to focus on what our team needs to accomplish this season.テつ Like Coach said, last year was our coming out party so to speak but we didn't have the season that we hoped for but this year we need to accomplish the goals that we have as a team, as a defense and as an offense and that's what my focus has been toward.

Q.テつ Star, you mentioned earlier that there are things you have to work on for you to get ready for the next level, what are those things?テつ What are you going to try to work on individually this season.
STAR LOTULELEI:テつ A lot of my skills as a defensive linemen, hand placement, footwork, and getting bigger, faster, stronger, something that every football player wants to work on and needs to improve on so that's a big part of it.テつ Really just being in better shape, trying to get in better shape to take that next step.

Q.テつ I was wondering if any of you would like to comment on the rivalry with BYU and the break that it's going to take?
COACH WHITTINGHAM:テつ I'll handle that one.テつ First of all, we have had a great athletic director in Dr.Chris Hill and I back him 100% in any decisions he makes, I'm in complete lock step with him.テつ That's the first thing.
Secondly, as a football coach, really, the year at hand and the task at hand is all that really matters, they're on the schedule this year, so we haven't thought beyond that.
I made several comments throughout the course of the summer that as far as my feelings and need to go make sure that we ensure our home schedule and in order to do that with the Pac‑12 playing nine conference games there is not a lot of room for out‑of‑conference play and making sure that we do what's best for our university and scheduling and that being the case I predicted that it was going to be tough to go home and home uninterrupted indefinitely and with the Michigan game that we were able to get, home and home with Michigan, that's the circumstance that I was alluding to and we like to have at least six home games, we like seven and ideally you like 8 like the SEC teams play.
But in order to make sure that happens with only three non‑conference games and the rotating four at home, five at home, Pac‑12 schedule, you have to make sure that when you have four at‑home games you have enough flexibility to have enough home games in your out‑of‑conference schedule that you have to work on that and it's a tough schedule, tough to put together; and that being said, something had to give and when we got Michigan on the schedule that's what transpired.

Q.テつ John, talk about being a senior and having Harvey and Kelvin coming up, what's it like to be a senior this year and are you exported not to have to carry as much of the load this year?
JOHN WHITE:テつ Being a senior is important.テつ Number 1, the younger guys to learn what we did last year, we have a different coach this year and Shram went to Fresno and a lot of people miss him, but having these young guys behind me, you have to show up at practice and being a leader‑‑ I am not a leader by voice but by action, and that's how I practice, 100%.テつ Once they see that, they're just following.

Q.テつ We have questions from Facebook and Twitter and they want to know which lesser‑known Utah player will be more we will‑known by not only the Utah players will be more known?
COACH WHITTINGHAM:テつ So which player‑‑

Q.テつ Will be a household name?
COACH WHITTINGHAM:テつ That's a tough one.テつ I try to stay away from those questions, every year I get who is the head line recruit, who is the top guy and as you look back in history it's tough to predict that stuff and when they used to do that, when Ervin and Coach Mack before that, very rarely did that end up being the case.テつ So discounting the guys coming in the fall, our two young quarterbacks, Chase Hansen and Travis Wilson, I believe both of them are going to be stars in our program and we have Jordan Wynn coming back, and of course that's going to be good.テつ The one area that we are not experienced on defense, but long on talent is line backer so there are six, seven, eight guys in that group that can be the type of player that you're talking about, so I haven't answered your question at all and that's where we're at.

Q.テつ Coach, we were proud to carry your Sun Bowl victory last year.テつ We talked about finesse offenses in the Pac‑12 and because you have to keep up with the offenses, the perception is it's more of a perception of "finesse" defenses.テつ And Star, you can talk about this too because I know you guys think you can play defense with anybody in the country.
COACH WHITTINGHAM:テつ We're as physical of a defense as you can find and that's our strong suit.テつ We have hung our hat on that for plenty of years and particularly in the rush defense which is the most physical part of playing defense is playing the run, and to say it's a sin to say this conference is not really accurate.テつ I don't buy into that, but I feel from my standpoint physically we match up with just about anybody in the country especially in the line of scrimmage.
STAR LOTULELEI:テつ I agree, our defense, we do a good job of playing physical and like coach said we have a couple of linebackers, who love to hit.テつ I think as a defense, you know, our safeties, they do a good job of helping on the run corners, as well, so physically I think like Coach said, we match up with anybody in the country and I think we'll prove it this year.

Q.テつ How did you happen to add Sharrieff Shah to your staff?
COACH WHITTINGHAM:テつ Yeah, that was unique, hiring an attorney as our corners coach, former attorney.テつ Sharrieff played way back in '92 or '93, might have been his last season he suffered a neck injury, season‑ending injury, and I wasn't at Utah at the time but my father was as the defensive coordinator, and I knew all about is that Rieff, and he's been around our team and our guys and he's been a sideline reporter for the local radio station as well as being an attorney in town and I've tried to get is that Rieff on the staff for five or six years now, it wasn't that something that just came about this season.
In fact, there were some other points early on that I tried to get him, now this time around I said is that Rieff this is the last window of opportunity, if you don't take it this time I'm not going to ask you again.テつ He did some soul searching, talked to his wife and ended up making the commitment to be with us.テつ We're blessed to have him on our staff.テつ He's passionate, energetic, a quick study, he has three degrees from the University of Utah, a business degree, bachelor's degree and master's degree.テつ He is a smart guy and a great fit, and we are proud to have him.

Q.テつ You're playing USC a nationally televised game on Thursday evening.テつ How excited is your program for that opportunity and what do you think it will take‑‑ I know it's early on but to beat a team from USC, probably the biggest game in the south division?
COACH WHITTINGHAM:テつ Our biggest game right now is Northern Colorado, August30th, that's the game we're looking forward and we never get ahead of ourselves.テつ Obviously we know the game is out there and it's going to be a huge event, Thursday night, national TV and the whole nine yards, SC and they may be ranked No. 1 in the country by then, so we know it's out there.
But we have the first game with northern California and it could be one of the biggest home games ever to take place at the stadium, and if you look at the season as a whole and you point to games that will probably be critical in determining who wins championships, and so forth, we're sure that's going to be one of them but offensively our attention is focus on being ready August30th when the season opens.
THE MODERATOR:テつ Thank you very much.テつ

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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