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Utes Have Healthy Respect, Familiarity With Baylor Ahead Of Matchup

Sep 6, 2023, 10:46 AM

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SALT LAKE CITY – The Baylor Bears had a rough start to their 2023 campaign, but Utah football isn’t about to show their opponent any disrespect because of it.

Talking with the Utah coaches this week the message was clear- they don’t think that first week showing is truly who the Bears are. In fact, they are preparing for a much better Baylor team in week two even with the injuries.

Yes, the Bears will be without starting quarterback Blake Shapen and a few others, but the Utes could also very well still be without Cam Rising among some other key players who missed Florida a week ago. It’s all going to come down to preparation and making the most of who is available to play.

Utah, Baylor Have Some Familiarity

There is a surprising amount of familiarity between the coaching staffs at Utah and Baylor.

Utah offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig and Baylor head coach Dave Aranda go back to Wisconsin from 2013 to 2014 when they were both coordinators for the Badgers. In fact, Ludwig considers Aranda a friend, though he joked about that being put on pause for the week.

“Dave is a great person,” Ludwig said. “I consider him a friend and I wish him the very best after the game is over.”

All jokes aside, Ludwig says the Bears have a good roster to work with and run a tough defensive scheme. However, there are a few wrinkles Ludwig thinks might be tough to decipher with new defensive coordinator Matt Powledge at the helm.

“They have a lot of good players,” Ludwig said. “I have a lot of respect for the scheme that they run. We’re dealing with a situation where there has been a change at defensive coordinator. I do believe at its very core it’s Dave Aranda’s defense, but there is always a little different personality when a new coordinator comes in, so we are looking at tape from last year. The defense is similar but it’s a different guy calling it.”

There is also some familiarity on the offensive side of the ball with coordinator Jeff Grimes who spent time at rival BYU from 2018-2020. Utah defensive coordinator Morgan Scalley doesn’t believe Grimes and the Bears offense will look quite the same from week one to week two.

“The team that you saw- they are going to fix things,” Scalley said. “They are a tough team, coached by a tough individual and we expect a tough, hard fight. In terms of the results of game one- it doesn’t matter to us.”

Utah Planning To Control What They Can Control Against Baylor

Obviously, Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham has familiarity with Baylor’s staff as well, but he also has one other interesting- almost connection to Baylor.

Back in 1999 another defensive-minded coach got the head job for the Bears- Kevin Steele. Word on the street (directly from Steele at a hotel lounge in Mobile, Alabama) was that he had his eyes on what Whittingham was doing as the defensive coordinator at Utah at the time and really wanted him to join his staff at Baylor.

Obviously, Whittingham never took the offer and eventually became the head coach at Utah. Steele on the other hand currently sits as the defensive coordinator at Alabama. It’s always nice to see how deep the respect goes in the coaching world.

With that little history lesson out of the way, Whittingham’s focus this week is making sure the Utes are ready and prepared to control what they can control. If they do that, Whitt believes they have a shot.

 

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“We’re focused on playing hard,” Whittingham said. “We’re very confident they will make a big step forward between game one and two. If we come out and control the line of scrimmage like we were able to do the previous week, tackle cleanly, execute cleanly on offense then we have a chance. We’ll see what happens.”

Michelle Bodkin is the Utah Utes Insider for KSLsports.com and host of both the Crimson Corner Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and The Saturday Show (Saturday from 10 a.m.–12 p.m.) on The KSL Sports Zone. Follow her on XInstagram, and Threads: @BodkinKSLsports

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Utes Have Healthy Respect, Familiarity With Baylor Ahead Of Matchup