Utah Ute Players Loving The New White Helmet

It’s a common video that surfaces from college football programs these days. Team meets. Coach unveils a new uniform. Players freak out. It happened with the Utah Utes program as head coach Kyle Whittingham showed off their latest uniform featuring a new white helmet. Like many programs these days the Utes have a variety of uniforms they have shown off in recent years. I will say in my opinion that the white helmet is very sharp and perhaps better thank the red and special black one they’ve worn in the past.

Here’s the video with a variety of angles showing the players getting excited.

Utah Athletic Director Chris Hill Announces Rivalry With BYU Will Be Back

University of Utah Athletic Director Chris Hill took to YouTube Tuesday to explain that an official announcement will be coming soon regarding the return of the football rivalry with BYU after the final game that is currently scheduled in 2016. After this year’s game the series will inexplicably take a two year hiatus. According to Hill, Utah and BYU will play in September in 2017 and then will be the last game of the year in 2018 pending Pac-12 approval.

Obviously this is good news. Just too bad Hill couldn’t have figured out how to make it work for 2014 and 2015.

Putting the Pac-12 Football Programs In Tiers

On Tuesday’s edition of the radio show I cohost, Gunther and Graham on 1320 KFAN in Salt Lake City, we talked with San Jose Mercury News Pac-12 columnist Jon Wilner. During that interview he mentioned that Washington was in the second tier of the Pac-12 and that Steve Sarkisian needs to take the program up into the first tier to keep his job long term. That sparked an idea to create and place the Pac-12 programs in tiers.

In all I created four tiers and listed all the Pac-12 football programs appropriately:

TIER 1: (National Championship contenders; regular appearances in the top 10)

-Oregon: The Ducks clearly are considered an elite program with nine winning seasons and three Pac-12 titles in the past 10 years including an appearance in the BCS Championship game.

-Stanford: The Cardinal has become a regular top 10 program doing it the old school way.

-USC: Despite last year’s disappointing season the Trojans have six Pac-12 titles in the last 10 years and is still regularly considered the leagues most talented program.

TIER 2: (Pac-12 league title contenders)

-UCLA: This is a school that clearly gets talent but hasn’t seemed to have the coach to corral it all with great results on the field. With Jim Mora it appears they have finally found their guy.

-Oregon State: After a couple down years Mike Riley has the Beavers back on the upswing.

-Washington: After leading the Huskies to three straight winning seasons Sarkisian is under pressure to take the program to the first tier.

TIER 3: (Middle of the pack, average teams in the Pac-12)

-Arizona State: Another program that is considered to have talent but has posted just five winning seasons in the last 10 years. Year one was good to Todd Graham. Curious to see if he can sustain it.

-Arizona: Wildcat fans are putting their faith in Rich Rodriguez to get this program into a higher tier and the hope to one day win a Rose Bowl.

-California: Under Jeff Tedford, the Golden Bears posted eight winning seasons including one Pac-12 championship in the last 10 seasons. Definitely enough to warrant at least a Tier 2 designation. Problem is Tedford is gone and now the program begins to rebuild under Sonny Dykes.

TIER 4: (Schools with limited hope to contend in the Pac-12 in the near future)

-Utah: After going 7-5 in year one of a down conference, the Utes went backwards in year two and have yet to post a signature league win (have failed to even post a victory over a Pac-12 team with a winning record). Add in that they will finally have to play Oregon and Stanford after being left off the schedule the first two seasons it will take time for the Utes to move into a higher tier.

-Washington State: With only one season with a winning record in the past 10, I’m not sure even Mike Leach can get this program to respectability.

-Colorado: Entering their third season the Buffaloes are already on their second head coach. Like Utah, it will take time to build.

The Ziggy Ansah Story

BYU defensive end/linebacker Ziggy Ansah continues to be the talk of the draft with ESPN profiling him for a 15 minute segment during SportsCenter Thursday in addition to profiling on Sport Science. In addition BYU put together a good video telling the “Ziggy” story at BYU. Still amazing to think that a guy who has played football for just two years can be drafted as high as the Top five or even three.

Also my latest KSL.com Sports column is on who would you draft between Ansah and Utah Utes defensive tackle Star Lotulelei. Whatever the case it will be the first time in the state’s history two players will be picked in the top 15 of the NFL draft.

Watch A Utah Football Player In a Gorilla Suit Scare Co-Offensive Coordinator Brian Johnson

Utah Utes wide receiver Kenneth Scott produced the video above of a player dressing in a gorilla suit running around the the football facility. The best part occurs around the two minute mark when they go into the coach’s offices and scare co-offensive coordinator Brian Johnson. Let’s just say he didn’t see it coming!

Utah Football Players Dunk At Halftime Of Ute Basketball Game

At halftime of Thursday night’s Utah basketball win over Oregon State, Ute football players took over the hardwood for a dunk contest. It appeared to be entertaining with a few decent dunks but overall it’s clear they’re better suited to playing with an oblong ball as opposed to a round one!

Watch Utah Coach Kyle Whittingham Award A Scholarship To Karl Williams

It’s always good to see one’s hard work pay off. That is the case with Utah fullback Karl Williams. As the video above shows Utah Utes coach Kyle Whittingham awarded Williams with a full scholarship. Williams walked onto the Utes after leaving a full scholarship behind at Southern Utah after just one season. Obviously the scholarship is a big payoff for all his efforts and will definitely help the family–he and his wife had their first child back in August.

Utah Utes Hire Dennis Erickson As Co-Offensive Coordinator; The Positives And Negatives

The Utah Utes named former Arizona State coach Dennis Erickson as co-offensive coordinator Monday. Erickson will work with Brian Johnson who is entering his second year as OC. I’ve been covering Kyle Whittingham’s Utah program since his first year as head coach before heading to Phoenix for two years to get an up close look at Erickson’s Sun Devils, then coming back to Salt Lake City.

Here are some of the positives and negatives of the Erickson hiring:

POSITIVES:
-Experience: Erickson has been coaching much longer (42 years) than Johnson has been alive (26). As you would expect from a young first year coordinator Johnson struggled in his first year calling plays. Erickson can be a steadying influence and a mentor to Johnson. On the defensive side of the ball, Gary Andersen and Kalani Sitake had one in Kyle Whittingham. Now Johnson has one on the offensive side.

-Spread mastermind: In the official hiring press release Whittingham called Erickson “one of the original architects of the spread.” That can only be helpful to an offense that essentially last year switched midseason to the spread when freshman Travis Wilson took over at quarterback. Erickson can help the Utes finally establish an offensive identity.

NEGATIVES:
-Age: As much as it can be a positive it could be a negative. He’s 65. One has to wonder how much juice he has left in the tank. In his final year at Arizona State he completely lost his team. They were one of the most undisciplined programs in the country. Does he have the fire and energy to not only put in the hours necessary to do the job but also hit the recruiting trail? He didn’t have it at Arizona State.

-Chemistry: Can a 65 year old mesh with a 26 year old? And can Johnson accept what is essentially a demotion? It will be interesting to see how this all works out as the Utes now don’t have just one, but two coaches (Aaron Roderick) that have been slighted.

National Letter Of Intent Signing Day Observations For BYU, Utah And Utah State

I’m not much of a National Letter of Intent Signing Day guy. As everyone knows it’s a very inexact science and difficult to project whether some 18 year old high school kid is going to become the next Heisman winner. With all that said, it is also the lifeline of a program so coaches have to hit a lot more than they miss if they want job security. Here are some quick observations on the state of Utah schools.

BYU: According to Scout.com the Cougars were the only program in the state to acquire a four-star recruit in offensive lineman Brayden Kearsley. Otherwise, according to most reporters who follow this stuff more closely, none of the other signees were really pursued by anyone else. Of course BYU has so many more layers than most programs considering the unique aspects of the school, but with the independent schedule toughening up in the future BYU better hope they don’t miss on many of these kids.

Utah Utes: At his signing day press conference Kyle Whittingham said he wanted guys with size and speed which he feels they accomplished. However their class is considered to be in the lower half of the Pac-12. In their past life in the MWC, Whittingham had the ability to recruit athletes with speed and coach them up. But that was MWC speed which is much different than what you need to compete in the Pac-12. Now if he accomplished that with this class the pressure is now on him and his staff to coach these kids to the next level to compete against the more talented Pac-12 programs. It’s a lot to ask but it needs to happen so Utah can be a consistent winning program which in turn will bring higher caliber recruits.

Utah State Aggies: Credit Matt Wells in holding on to most of the recruits the school was targeting before he was officially named to replace Gary Andersen. Much like BYU and Utah, time will tell whether the athletes they are bringing in can live up to the pressure of playing in a better conference. Fortunately for Wells though he has strong pieces and playmakers returning. He’ll have to hope the JC kids can step up immediately to assist at wide receiver and defensive back.

Aaron Roderick Flip Flops And Decides To Leave BYU And Return To Utah

As we reported from our sources and BYU later confirmed Wednesday, Aaron Roderick had accepted an assistant coaching position leaving the University of Utah. Well, he had a change of heart–again. Utah announced Thursday that Roderick would stay at Utah in his current capacity as wide receivers coach/passing game coordinator. Roderick did the same thing in 2009 when he accepted an assistants position at Washington before changing his mind and returning to Utah.

In the official press release Roderick explained why he had a change of heart:

“The response from my players, our coaches and the fans left me overwhelmed and I realized how much I loved it here and didn’t want to leave. I believe in Coach Whittingham and this program and I want to continue to be a part of it.”

Talked to several sources close to both programs. Obviously disappointment from the BYU side on his sudden change of heart. On the Utah end one of my sources told me he was surprised and joked that he should have at least stayed for a week or two so he could have infiltrated the BYU program, get playbooks etc. After now changing his mind on Bronco Mendenhall and Steve Sarkisian, all my sources agreed with my opinion that it will be very difficult for Roderick to ever be offered another college coaching job again. In that case he better hope the program gets better so Kyle Whittingham’s job stays secure.

In the end it appears Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen is the smartest of the bunch. He must have felt he was going to get “ARodded” and decided to pull the offer before it happened.