Before hand, around 6:20pm the radio host had an interview with Mike Bell. The questions asked were on a wide range of topics including one of the first ones asking him about if he feels he made a bad choice about going to the University of Arizona with all the coaching turmoil that has occurred there. He went on to explain how things have changed since Stoops arrived, and then moved onto the last win of the season against a ranked ASU team.
The radio hosts haven't been keeping up with Arizona as they still believed we had "a couple" Linebackers out for this game. After the interview the hosts went on to explain how they feel this Utah group is capable of going 8-3 or 9-2.
Kyle Whittingham first answered some questions regarding how life has been now that he is a head coach, and not just a defensive coordinator. He answered with what most do in that position regarding the extra time involved in all aspects of the team.
He mentioned there are quite a few legit freshmen who may see the field this year. He focused a lot on backup RB Darrell Mack. They would like to redshirt him, however he is a good option to use this year if needed.
Focus quickly turned to the 18 year old quarterback Brian Johnson. He just turned 18 four months ago, so the kid has just barely learned how to shave, yet big things are expected of him this year. "I can't wait to see him run the option" Coach Whittingham explained.
The running back situation was addressed after a question from a Ute fan was raised regarding the backups. This is a cause of concern for Coach Whittingham since depth is not what he would like to see considering there are a lot of nagging injuries there. Plus Starting RB Quinton Ganther has never been the feature back before, but this will be his time to prove his value in this role. Without Quinton, they would be very worried about quality depth. Kyle is going to travel 4 running backs this year just because of this concern.
Last year the Utes were second in the league in running. Only one team (Air Force) ran more then they did. In addition, only one team threw less they did. He plans to keep that ratio this year, although had something interesting to say. Since they run a lot of option, those numbers can be deceiving. When they have a shovel pass (or option) called, that goes down as receiving yards when in his mind it truly is a rushing play at its basic level.
Early in camp, the defense definitely had the better of the Ute offense. However, after four weeks of camp, the offensive picked it up and he feels it is now a 50-50 split during practice. They have been practicing a lot of blitz packages as he fully expects the Wildcats to bring a lot of it during the game.
One thing that really left myself wide-eyed and jaw to the floor was his comments on last year's game. He stated how he felt the fumbles in last years game had very little to do with the win. He even backed up some his comments with "we beat them handedly last year". Will he have the same feelings if the Wildcats force many turnovers in Fridays match up? After all, the Wildcats led the PAC-10 in forced fumbles last year, and plan on continuing that "attack the ball" mentality. We shall see.
Kyle feels that "there was no better prepared team last year" in the nation, no matter who you bring up. He credits a lot of last year's success to that, and hopes to bring that level of preparedness to the table again for 2005.
Whittingham had a lot of love for the Arizona wideouts, also mentioning that Syndric Steptoe is by far their strongest player on the team. He had high praise for BJ Vickers as well saying "He is a dangerous kid, fast" and a terrific athlete.
The Utes will be wearing a sticker on the back of their helmets bearing the number 76 in honor of Thomas Herrion. Thomas passed away August 21st after playing in a preseason game. There will also be a moment of silence for him prior to the game beginning on September 2nd.
Also at tonight's event, UTE tailgaters christened "The Pirate Ship". This group of tailgaters from www.utefans.net has had this in the making for sometime now, and it seemed to turn out very well. If you are in the area before kickoff, stop by and check it out if you can. I'm sure you will enjoy the time spent there.