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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Whittingham starts Utah reign

Doug Alden Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY – Kyle Whittingham is as eager as anybody to see how good Utah is this fall.

The Utes make their debut under Whittingham on Friday night against Arizona, and the new coach isn’t quite sure what to expect.

“We have a lot of guys who have not been in that situation, and I’m just anxious to see how they react,” Whittingham said Monday in his first weekly news conference of the season.

The Utes have only nine players who started the Fiesta Bowl victory over Pittsburgh – which capped a 12-0 season – returning this fall, leaving Whittingham a little uncertain of how long the school’s 16-game winning streak could last.

Fall camp was positive, and Whittingham is confident sophomore quarterback Brian Johnson can take over for Alex Smith, but only so much can be based on scrimmages.

It also will be the first time Whittingham, Utah’s defensive coordinator for 10 years, is in charge of everything. The veteran assistant was promoted in December after Urban Meyer announced he was leaving for Florida. Meyer coached the Utes in the Fiesta Bowl, but Whittingham shared the title of coach.

“Technically, I guess I’m 1-0 after the Fiesta Bowl,” he said jokingly. “Coaching football is coaching football. Whether you’re making decisions on defense or you’re making the decisions as the head coach. Game time is game time. I don’t anticipate it being much different than what I was used to in the past.”

The two-time defending Mountain West Conference champion Utes aren’t ranked despite finishing last season at No. 4 in the Associated Press poll. Losing Smith, four other NFL draft picks and Meyer seems to have knocked the Utes out of the national picture for now.

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