Team preview: Utah

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(All information as of June 20, 2007)


Succeeding a coach that brings a program to unprecedented heights isn't an easy task. Expectations are raised, sometimes unreasonably so, and success becomes assumed by some. Kyle Whittingham took over the Utah program in the long shadow cast by Urban Meyer's glorious two-year run that was capped by 12-0, Fiesta Bowl championship season in 2004 and has made the transition as smoothly as possible.

Whittingham's record, 15-10, isn't gaudy, but few doubt the quality of his work. His first team, which had to replace eight seniors and quarterback Alex Smith, the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft, closed the year with a rush, finishing 7-5 and winning the Emerald Bowl. In 2006, Utah, despite playing without All-MWC quarterback Brian Johnson, who sat out the season with a torn ACL, won four of its last five, including an Armed Forces Bowl victory.

Whittingham deftly guided the Utes through Meyer's departure and took a pair of good but far from great teams to successful, bowl-winning seasons. After a transition period after the success of 2004, the Utes are poised to make a run at another 10-win season and possibly the MWC crown.