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Sylvester: Whittingham’s Coaching Style Change In 2007 Was Beginning Of Greatness

Utah Utes head coach Kyle Whittingham pumps his fist after beating the Washington Huskies in Seattle on Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019. Utah won 33-28. Courtesy of Deseret News.

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Former Utah and NFL linebacker Stevenson Sylvester recounts a time in 2007 where a coaching style change from Kyle Whittingham led to the Utes head coach’s greatness.

On the Crimson Corner podcast, Sylvester explained how a style change in coaching in Sylvester’s sophomore season, Whittingham’s third season as the head coach, changed the way Utah football was ran and would set up Whittingham to be one of the best coaches in the country.

“After I saw what he did as far as coaching style change from my sophomore year to my junior year,” Sylvester said to KSL Sports. “When I saw him do that, I understood that he understands what is going on. I have ran into so many guys and heard stories about so many coaches that are like ‘it’s my way that’s how it is,’ an example is Chip Kelly, it’s his way, he isn’t adjusting, they need to adjust to him.”

Sylvester believed that the change that Whittingham made in 2007 was putting more ownership on the players and coaches. With Utah’s veteran team in 2007, he was able to let them govern from the inside out. That allowed Whittingham’s job to become easier to where he could focus more on other essential priorities.

“Coach Whittingham made a serious adjustment to his coaching style during my second year and that’s why we went undefeated in my third year,” Sylvester stated. “His ability to be humble as a coach has really let him succeed the way that he has. He has had great talent because he recruits great talent and he has created a foundation to really embrace and make great talent work together. But, understanding who he was as a defensive coordinator and talking to the older guys about how he was before he took the head coaching job and then now how he is and how he has been able to take the helm as the head guy in charge and really hone in and let the coaches do what they need to do and him control the narrative.”

Something that Whittingham does that not all coaches in the country are doing is being coachable.

“His ability to be humble is why I foreseen him having success no matter where he was at,” Sylvester said. “I commend him for that and I commend anybody who is willing to take criticism. As a player, that is how you know you are a good player. They always say that players need to be coachable. As a coach, you need to be coachable and be able to adapt.”

You can listen to the entire interview with Sylvester on the Crimson Corner podcast below.

Always Sticking With Utah

After graduating from BYU, Whittingham had stints at Eastern Utah and Idaho State before joining the Utes’ coaching staff in 1994. He became the head coach in 2005 and has thrived at the helm. With many offers to leave the Utes program and coach elsewhere, Whittingham has always decided to stay in Salt Lake City.

“It’s such a tough task to switch teams,” Sylvester mentioned. “You have seen so many people switch head coaching jobs and not have success. He has created everything here. Urban Meyer left things pretty great but he has really had to change things because his style isn’t like Urban’s. I think that’s why in his first two years, he was really forcing things and then he humbled himself and knew that he had to change something.

Leaving Utah never really seemed like an option for Whittingham. One of the reasons is starting from scratch.

“If he leaves, he is going to have to do that all over again,” stated Sylvester. “Then you have to ask yourself after that ‘why do I want to leave? What is it that is pulling me away? Is it money?’ That’s not who he is. He is not a guy that is all about the money. At the end of the day, money isn’t what drives him. That is something that Utah can definitely be happy about is to have a leader like him that isn’t driven by being the highest paid coach ever. He definitely loves success, loves being here and knows that Utah has the ability to win a national championship and there is no reason why we couldn’t do it here. I think that’s his goal and I hope he reaches that before he calls it quits.”

Utah Players In 2020 NFL Draft

Kyle Whittingham will likely have 8 players selected in the upcoming 2020 NFL Draft. With undrafted free agents, Whittingham could have 12 former players on an NFL Training Camp roster. Sylvester said that Whittingham just wants to help his players achieve their goals.

“From what I know of him, he just loves to help people,” said Sylvester. “He loves to see success which is what makes great coaches. You put people in position to succeed. That is what he has done for these guys.”

Another thing that Whittingham preaches to his players is getting their degree and thriving in the classroom.

“For the most part, these players all of have their degrees and they are going into their next phase of live,” Sylvester continued. “He has done a tremendous job of cultivating their maturation and making sure they care about you. These guys all have the same work ethic, the same mentality, the same goals as far as life. They all love the game of football which is why they were great. NFL teams see that.

The program that Whittingham has built at Utah is partly due to the coaches that he has brought into the program with the same vision and goals that the Utes head coach has.

“Coach Whittingham is doing a great job in knowing the system and what works and I think he is doing that year in and year out,” Sylvester mentioned. “No matter how many seniors we lose, we have a formula for success here at Utah. He is going to stick to that. Know that guys like me will come back and thank coach Whittingham for what he has done in helping me and hiring the right coaches around him to really embrace that mission and vision and instill that into the players.”

Trevor Allen is a Utah Utes Insider for KSLSports.com and host of the Crimson Corner podcast. Follow him on Twitter: @TrevorASportsYou can download and listen to the podcast, here.

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