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Utah head coach Urban Meyer speaks to the crowd after his team's 35-7 victory over Pittsburgh in the Tostito's Fiesta Bowl at the Sun Devil Stadium on January 1, 2005 in Tempe, Arizona. Meyer will leave Utah to become the head coach at Florida. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images).
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Urban Meyer Didn’t Expect To Double Utah’s Win Total In First Season As Head Coach

Utah head coach Urban Meyer speaks to the crowd after his team's 35-7 victory over Pittsburgh in the Tostito's Fiesta Bowl at the Sun Devil Stadium on January 1, 2005 in Tempe, Arizona. Meyer will leave Utah to become the head coach at Florida. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images).

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Former Utah head coach Urban Meyer did not think the 2003 football team was going to double their win total from the 2002 season.

Meyer took his second head coaching job in his career when he accepted the job to take over the Utah program after the university let Ron McBride go. In McBride’s last season at Utah in 2002, the team went 5-6 which ultimately ended his 13-year run with the Utes.

When Meyer took over, he led the 2003 Utah team to a 10-2 record, a Mountain West Conference Championship and a win over Southern Miss in the Liberty Bowl.

Meyer didn’t expect to double the win total in his first season at the helm in Salt Lake City.

“No, you don’t even think that way, I always take the approach to win one more game than the year before,” Meyer told KSL Sports. “I had no idea Alex Smith would become Alex Smith. Brett Elliot was our returning starting quarterback. We were fortunate Kyle (Whittingham) stayed on our staff and we knew we’d be good on defense just historically, but offense, we had no idea.”

Listen to Meyer’s full interview on the Crimson Corner podcast, below.

Alex Smith, Steve Savoy, Paris Warren

One of the reasons that Meyer was surprised that the Utes doubled the previous win total was because of the emergence of quarterback Alex Smith along with the breakout seasons from wide receiver duo Steve Savoy and Paris Warren.

“I had no idea Steve Savoy would turn it up and be who he was, Paris Warren I believe was a transfer at the time so I had no idea and then we started getting pretty good throughout the year and then Alex caught fire,” Meyer said. “His first start was against Aaron Rodgers and we beat Cal and then we go the next week he throws for I believe 300 yards against Oregon that’s when you’re like ‘wait a minute now this is legit, legit.'”

In 2003, Smith threw for 2,247 yards, 15 touchdowns and 3 interceptions while rushing for 452 yards and 5 scores. In Savoy’s first season at Utah in 2003, he caught 40 passes for 663 yards and 7 touchdowns. Warren racked up 76 receptions for 809 yards and 4 touchdowns.

Coaching Transition

It’s tough for players to go through a coaching transition, especially in college. The players loved Ron McBride. Utah hired a coach that didn’t have any ties to the state before becoming the head coach. Meyer noticed that the team was very close when they started playing well.

“The team got very close,” Meyer stated. “Whenever you have a coaching transition and a new staff is a lot different than the last one especially when they love their previous coach like they love coach Mac, which they should, it takes a while to warm up to a new staff. But once they did, they were great.”

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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