Kyle Whittingham

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Utah locks in defensive coordinator Morgan Scalley to new deal for ‘long-term’ future

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One potential head coaching candidate for a handful of schools has been taken off the table. Utah defensive coordinator Morgan Scalley agreed to a revised contract to remain a part of the coaching staff, Utah announced on Monday.

“We are excited to announce that Morgan Scalley will continue to be a part of Utah football for years to come,” Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham said in a released statement. “Morgan’s impact on our program as both a player and a coach has been invaluable to our success.”

“I’m grateful to be in this position, and fully committed to the Utah Football Family,” Scalley said. “I sincerely appreciate Coach Whittingham and Mark Harlan for their trust and belief in me. I love this place, my family loves it here, and I am excited to continue working with our staff and players to build something special at the University of Utah.”

The announcement from Utah didn’t specify the exact length of the coaching contract, but the specific use of the phrase “long-term” seems to suggest there could be more to the plan for Scalley and his future in Salt Lake City. A potential opportunity to be the successor to Whittingham has been a popular reaction once the news broke Monday, and that would seem to make sense.

Scalley has been a part of the Utah coaching staff for 12 years. He is also a former Utah football player, earning All-American honors to go with All-Mountain West Conference honors and being named a Co-Defensive Player of the Year in the Mountain West in 2004. After completing his playing time with the Utes, Scalley quickly joined the Utah coaching staff under Whittingham, first as an administrative assistant in 2006 and later as a graduate assistant before taking on the role as safeties coach in 2008.

Whittingham, who turns 61 next season, still has some good years in front of him after guiding the program to the Pac-12 championship game this season, but finding a way to secure Scalley for a long-term future is a pretty sensible move by Whittingham and the program. At least for now, it will keep Scalley from leaving the program to take on any number of Group of 5 coaching opportunities.

A reminder Nick Saban is a perfect 17-0 against former assistants as No. 1 Alabama heads to No. 24 Texas A&M

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It’s that time of the year again when we are regularly reminded that Alabama head coach Nick Saban has never lost to an assistant coach during his coaching career. That perfect streak will once again be put on the line this weekend when the top-ranked Crimson Tide make their way to College Station, Texas to face the No. 24 Texas A&M Aggies. Texas A&M, of course, is coached by Jimbo Fisher. You guessed it. Fisher is a former assistant to Saban.

Fisher has gone 0-2 against his former boss, including last season’s loss in SEC play. Last season marked the first time Fisher faced Saban as a coach of an SEC West Division foe. His previous loss to Saban came while coaching at Florida State when the No. 3 Seminoles opened the 2017 season with a 24-7 loss to No. 1 Alabama in the season opener in Atlanta, Georgia. The most-hyped Week 1 game in quite some time ended up being far from able to match the preseason hype. Florida State hasn’t exactly been the same since and may still be trying to recover from that game.

The odds always seem to be in Saban’s favor, as he generally has the best team in every matchup against his former assistants, and that should once again be the case this weekend. Is Saban due for a loss against an assistant? Perhaps. It’s hard to win so many games before taking a mild hit somewhere along the way, even if by a fluke. Fisher may have Texas A&M working to be a viable threat to Alabama, and maybe playing at home helps, but the Aggies have already lost one game at home to Auburn so it doesn’t seem like this may be a difficult destination for Alabama.

Brett McMurphy of Stadium notes Saban has lost to just nine active coaches. Active coaches with victories against Saban are Les Miles (Kansas; 3), Hugh Freeze (Liberty; 2), Gus Malzahn (Auburn; 2), Dabo Swinney (Clemson; 2), Mack Brown (UNC; 2), David Cutcliffe (Duke; 1), Kirk Ferentz (Iowa; 1), Kevin Sumlin (Arizona; 1) and Kyle Whittingham (1; Utah). Only four of those coaches (Malzahn, Swinney, Ferentz, Whittingham) are at the same program today as they were when they topped Saban. Swinney and Brown, of course, have victories against Saban in the national championship game (Brown in the BCS and Swinney twice in the College Football Playoff).

Is Fisher going to be the first former Saban assistant to beat his old boss? We’ll find out this week. If not, we may be waiting for Kirby Smart to get another crack in the SEC Championship Game.

Utah lands former four-star QB Cameron Rising from Longhorns

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Just days after making an official visit to Utah, it appears Cameron Rising liked what he saw. Rising announced he has decided to transfer to Utah after previously deciding not to return to Texas, as first reported by UteZone.

Rising was a four-star pro-style quarterback recruit in the Class of 2018 for the Texas Longhorns. He had committed to the Longhorns in 2017 after previously committing to Oklahoma, but it did not appear he was going to get a chance to play much for Texas with Sam Ehlinger standing in the way. Ehlinger’s role in the Texas offense also led to the decision of Shane Buechele to enter the NCAA transfer portal as well.

Rising did not play for the Longhorns in 2018 and used a redshirt to preserve four years of eligibility. However, he will still have to sit out the 2019 season due to NCAA transfer rules and will not be eligible to play again until 2020. At that time, Rising will have three years of eligibility at his disposal. That timing could work out for the Utes as Tyler Huntley will be back for his senior season in Salt Lake City this fall.

Before Rising steps right into the starting role, however, he may have to beat out Jason Shelley for the job in 2020. Shelley had an up-and-down freshman season in relief of Huntley that didn’t inspire a tremendous amount of confidence in the future of the passing game for Utah. That may have been why Kyle Whittingham pursued the transfer of Rising once the former four-star recruit became an option.

CFT Previews: San Diego County Credit Union Holiday Bowl

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WHO: No. 17 Utah (9-4) vs. No. 22 Northwestern (8-5)
WHAT: The 41st San Diego County Credit Union Holiday Bowl
WHEN: 7:00 p.m. ET on FS1
WHERE: SDCCU Stadium, San Diego, CA
THE SKINNY: While the Rose Bowl gets the champions of the Big Ten and Pac-12 this season, it is the Holiday Bowl that gets the runners-up for a fun little matchup between Northwestern and Utah. Both schools are making their first trip to the long-standing bowl game.

The great unknown for Utah is the status of quarterback Tyler Huntley. Huntley was thought to be lost for the season due to a collarbone injury, but he has been available for practices and has not been ruled out for the Holiday Bowl. In fact, Kyle Whittingham has refused to name a starter, which suggests there is a chance that not only will Huntley play, but he could even get the starting nod for the Utes offense. If Huntley can be available, that would be a nice lift for a Utah offense as he is the more dependable option compared to backup Jason Shelley.

Northwestern will know they have Clayton Thorson leading their offense, but he can be streaky in good ways and bad. Against a steady Utah defense, that could be an ominous sign. Look for the Wildcats to try getting freshman running back Isaiah Bowser going, but Utah will be focused on stopping the Northwestern running game to force Thorson to try beating them through the air. That may be a risk they are willing to take.

THE LINE: Utah -7.0
THE PREDICTION: Utah 30, Northwestern 24

Kyle Whittingham attempts to defend bizarre timeout decision that doomed Utes vs. Washington

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If you went to bed a little early on Saturday night then the chances are pretty good you missed one of the more baffling coaching decisions of the season. With Washington and Utah tied at 30-30 after the Huskies battled back in the second half, Washington received the football with under a minute to play. Washington seemed to be playing for overtime with a short run to keep the clock rolling when Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham called a timeout. This gave Washington head coach Chris Petersen a chance to change the mindset on his sideline and go for the win before overtime, and it led to a game-winning field goal as time expired.

Whittingham essentially gave Washington a chance to win the Huskies had no intention of playing for in regulation, and it may end up costing Utah a spot in a postseason bowl game. After the game, Whittingham defended his decision-making by saying he was attempting to be aggressive, suggesting that if Washington really was playing for overtime, they would have taken a knee.

“You’d have to ask Chris that. But if they were not being aggressive they would have taken a knee,” Whittingham explained. “What’s the point in running a play if they’re not going to try to at least maneuver into field goal range. So we called timeout, had them in decent field position, second and eight or second and nine, and one incomplete pass and another timeout if they decide to run the ball. So it was a long shot, but we’re just trying to win and it obviously didn’t work out.

Here’s the play where Utah called the timeout. It sure seemed as though Washington had no real intention of playing for a field goal unless Utah made a huge mistake, which as it turned out they did,

Whittingham had no legitimate reason to call for the timeout and admitted it was a decision he would take back given the hindsight of knowing how the game would eventually end.

“In hindsight, I probably wouldn’t have called the timeout,” Whittingham said. “But at the time, we were just trying to be aggressive and get the ball back to a guy who has about a sixty-yard range field goal wise.”

Petersen said after the game they were merely trying to run Myles Gaskin to see if there would be a crack or a big play. That never developed, but the timeout changed the situation for Washington. Petersen, not one to go out and trash an opposing coach over a questionable decision that benefits him, said he understood what Whittingham was trying to do.

“We wanted to run the ball and see if we could pop through with Myles and maybe get a 10-yard run,” Petersen said. “I get what Kyle was trying to do. You have to play aggressive in these situations.”

No, you do not.

There is a time to play with aggression, but this was not the time. Washington was settling on playing overtime, and Whittingham overthought the situation and got burned by it.