Adams: Whittingham’s close-to-home staff hurts program

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— Chris Samuels

 

On Monday morning, Utah fans woke up to the nice surprise that Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham had finally filled the vacant coaching positions in his staff. Although it took longer than many would have liked, the waiting and speculating is finally over — you can all breathe easy.

Or can you? Are these hires really good for the Utes?

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Most of the positions were filled with familiar faces. Dennis Erickson, Aaron Roderick, Jim Harding, Morgan Scalley — all of these coaches received some sort of new title, but in the same setting. The only new bodies to the coaching staff, John Pease and Justin Ena, both have Utah ties in some way and Pease even played and coached on the hill previously.

Now, I want to preface my rant by saying all of these coaches have the ability and talent to coach at the Division-I level. I mean, Pease was an NFL assistant coach for 15 years — hard to argue against the hire when the man has that much experience.

But why do Whittingham and company seem to always go back to former players or coaches versus going after some of the bigger fish in the market?

Now, I realize Utah is nothing like the Alabamas or the Oregons of college football, but the Utes are coming off their best season since joining the Pac-12. That, and the rise of the men’s basketball team, has made Salt Lake City a more desirable place for recruits and coaches alike.

So after the best conference season to date and a big bowl victory over Colorado State, why not go after someone who can really make a change in this Utah program? Instead, Whittingham resorted to convincing Pease to come out of retirement for a second time and basically just promoted everyone else.

Again, I want to reiterate these hires are not bad. Maybe the new coaches will be a solid nucleus for the next decade here in Salt Lake. But I wouldn’t bet on it.

The Utes have had eight consecutive offensive coordinators that have come in and out of the program. Many have speculated on the reasoning behind this, but in the end, maybe Whittingham just has a close-knit circle and doesn’t know anyone when it comes to the college football world.

I know what you’re thinking. Whittingham busted the BCS, won a Sugar Bowl and led Utah to a power five conference — he knows people. But the head coach hardly branches out to other parts of the country when it comes to his coaching staff, which is hindering Utah from growing even more.

Utah is a great program that has seen a lot of success. There are a number of great athletes and coaches who have represented the Utes with pride and did so admirably. However, if the Utes want to make the jump from middle-of-the-pack to contender, Whittingham and his staff need to take a play from their recruiting playbook and look outside of the Beehive State for help.

g.adams@chronicle.utah.edu

@griffdoug

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