After some much-needed rest during the bye week, all of Utah’s attention is now on its upcoming game against Cal.
Both teams are ranked in the top 25, Utah at No. 5 and Cal at No. 23, and head coach Kyle Whittingham is fully aware his team has a lot to do before stepping onto the new turf in Rice-Eccles Stadium on Saturday night
“We got our work cut out for us, but it’s going to be good to get back out on the field,” Whittingham said.
After the emotional win against Oregon, Whittingham thinks his team is fully rejuvenated and ready to get back to the grind. He loved the timing of the bye week and thinks it gave his team plenty of time to recover from any sort of injuries. Now with eight games left to play in the Pac-12, the team will be full throttle the rest of the way.
That said, the Utes are not focusing on those eight games just yet. They are taking it one game at a time, much like they have done this entire season, and all the players have their eyes set on the Golden Bears this coming Saturday.
“There’s so much football left — it’s pointless to talk about anything other than Cal Berkley,” Whittingham said.
Since Utah did not have to focus on any opponents or games over the weekend, the coaches instead shifted their focus to recruiting, which they had to catch up on after a busy start to the season.
Coaches were out recruiting the entire weekend and, considering the team’s ranking and the fact that they are receiving votes for the No. 1 spot in the nation, players are starting to take more interest in Utah and have even been the ones to reach out.
“Success on the field seems to lead itself to enhanced recruiting,” Whittingham said. “The more you win, the more talent you’re going to be able to assemble.”
But with more people being interested in the program, this only means there are more and more guys to turn down.
Whittingham said in years past they have turned away players who do not necessarily fit the system or who do not posses the values Utah football considers important to being a part of its team.
“We’ve turned down hundreds of players who are very good football players but not our kind of guys as far as character,” Whittingham said. “You recruit guys that are a certain type of person, and that’s what we’ve done for a lot of years.”
GameDay back in SLC
With ESPN’s College GameDay choosing to make this week’s stop Salt Lake City, there comes a lot of noise. While the Utes welcome that noise and are eager to show everyone what they’re made of, Whittingham is preparing his team to block it out.
“It’s great for our program, great for our university, so we got to be able to handle it,” Whittingham said. “If you want to be a good team, you have to be able to handle the success you’ve had and the attention that’s been placed on your program — that’s part of the deal.”
The team will continue to stay focused throughout this week’s events and will work on the things that got them to their top five spot. Whittingham acknowledges that while the team will not be able to fully ignore everything going on, it will be business as usual for the Utes.
At the same time they will enjoy the moment, and come game time, Whittingham expects the crowd to be similar to that of the Michigan home opener, something that the players will be able to feed off of.
“I can’t say enough good things about our crowd and the support they give us,” Whittingham said. “The atmosphere of Saturday night should be electric.”