No summer vacation for ’09 Utes

By Matt Sanchez, Staff Writer

With a perfect 13-0 season in the rearview mirror, the 2009 version of the Utah football team will now try to make a name for themselves.

Although most people believe the season will start Sept. 3 when the Utes host in-state rival Utah State, that is not the case.

“There is no offseason, that phrase is a misnomer,” said head coach Kyle Whittingham. “We started winter conditioning a couple weeks after the Sugar Bowl, and then we have spring ball and then June 1st our summer program started.”

The football team is right in the thick of its summer training program, which consists of early-morning conditioning and afternoon weight-training sessions. The workouts are completely voluntary for players, but Whittingham said the team has 100 percent attendance.

“Everyone wants to play in front of the crowd and under the bright lights, but these training programs are what set you up to do that,” Whittingham said. “If you want to be good then you pay the price by improving your game.”

The training programs are extremely involved and have the players improving on every aspect of their game.

Players work on their speed and agility by practicing plyometrics, a special set of exercises designed to produce fast, powerful movements. Conditioning drills are also performed daily so players have the stamina and resilience to compete.

The team also works to build muscle by weight-lifting; focusing on specific areas of the body that are not only needed to perform at a high level but also areas that take a pounding because of the rough nature of the game.

“Lifting combined with proper nutrition and rest is huge and so beneficial to our players,” Whittingham said. “Jordan Wynn has gained 30 pounds since he got here (in February).”

Training isn’t the only key to success, as Whittingham said leadership and team chemistry were the major reasons for the team going undefeated last season.

With so many of the 2008 senior leaders now gone, combined with new offensive and defensive coordinators and a new offensive line coach, many fans worry about how the team will perform in the coming season.

“We have several coaches in new positions, and so far so good,” Whittingham said. “I subscribe to the (New England Patriots coach) Bill Belichick philosophy of promoting from within because the coaches are familiar with the system and players. Also, the players are comfortable having a coach they have worked with.”

With the departure of Brian Johnson, the Mountain West Conference Offensive Player of the Year, the Utes also have a big hole to fill at quarterback. There has been much debate and speculation as to who will be the starter when the season officially kicks off, but Whittingham likes what he has seen so far from his three QBs.

“Corbin (Louks) was in first to start the spring and he is still in first, but the gap has closed because Wynn and (Terrance) Cain have improved so much,” Whittingham said.

Regardless of who ends up taking the snaps, Whittingham expressed much interest in running more of the spread offense, no-huddle and play to his players’ strengths.

It’s been said that it’s tough to follow a legend and in this case, follow a legendary season, but Whittingham thinks this team has what it takes to repeat as MWC champions.

“Nobody (we’ll play this season) cares what we did last year. It was a great experience but we will move on and fight to stay on top,” Whittingham said.

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