Of course, the Utah Utes played some amazing football when Urban Meyer was their coach for two years. But UCLA's Karl Dorrell thinks they might be even better now that coach Kyle Whittingham is in charge.
It was great with Kyle getting the job after coach Meyer left, Dorrell, the fourth-year coach, said on a conference call Tuesday. He really stepped it up a notch for everyone. He's done a nice job moving steps forward in the program.
The Bruins soon will learn just how many steps the Utes have taken since finishing 7-5 in their first season under Whittingham last year, when the teams meet in the season opener at the Rose Bowl on Saturday.
They are dangerous, Dorrell said. You can tell in how they play that they're a very well-coached program. . . . They're going to be a formidable foe.
The teams haven't met since 1974, and the Utes have not beaten the Bruins in seven meetings all-time.
But UCLA is favored now by only 3 1/2 points - down from 5 when the line was posted - suggesting Dorrell might not be just diplomatically blowing smoke with his compliments. Besides, the Bruins are replacing all of their top offensive playmakers from a year ago and hoping to revitalize one of the nation's worst defenses, perhaps giving the Utes an experience edge.
They've made some tremendous inroads across the country, beating some very good programs in some bowl games, Dorrell said. So there's no doubt this is a very good football team. . . . Given our inexperience and their experience coming in, it's going to be a great challenge for us on Saturday.
For the Utes, it's nothing new - replacing their top rusher, top passer, top receiver and top total-yardage gainer all at one time. After all, they've had to do it the past two seasons.
The Bruins, however, are making history.
Not since 1961 have they had to replace all of their most productive offensive players at the same time, the way they're trying to get over losing quarterback Drew Olson, running back Maurice Drew and tight end Marcedes Lewis from the team that finished 10-2 last season. But that might not portend disaster, if history is a guide. The Bruins went 7-2-1 and finished third in their conference in 1960, but wound up winning the league and finishing 7-4 after losing to Minnesota in the Rose Bowl in 1961.
Back in action
Linebacker Kyle Brady returned to practice for the Utes this week as scheduled, after spraining his knee during training camp. He still must wear a brace for support, but said it doesn't bother him and he will be full speed to meet UCLA.
Normally a starter, Brady figures to share time with backup Malakai Mokofisi, depending on how strong his knee feels by game time.