Morgan Scalley Discusses Positive Defensive Progress, One Area Of Concern

Apr 7, 2022, 8:49 PM
Defensive coordinator Morgan Scalley asks for a stopwatch during University of Utah football practi...
Defensive coordinator Morgan Scalley asks for a stopwatch during University of Utah football practice in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Aug. 10, 2017. (Ravell Call, Deseret News)
(Ravell Call, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY- It is hard not to be positive about the Utes heading into the 2022 football season after a remarkable 2021 season. Even so, defensive coordinator Morgan Scalley has a concern along with a lot of optimism- it comes with the territory of being a Power Five coach. The job is never fully done. There is always somewhere to improve no matter how good you think you are.


Replacing two prolific linebackers in Devin Lloyd and Nephi Sewell would seem like the obvious choice as to what would keep Scalley up at night. However, the cornerbacks are who give him some pause. This isn’t because they aren’t talented enough. It’s simply because Scalley has already experienced going through every single one of them in a season due to injury.

“The good thing is we are getting some of these guys who haven’t had the opportunity to prove it,” Scalley said. “Caine Savage, Elisha Lloyd, Drew Rawls- some of these younger guys are getting all of these reps. Clark Phillips continues to impress and improve, but we won’t know till fall camp what that depth is going to look like because we have guys out right now.”

There is a possibility Utah could look to further bolster their cornerback room once they see what they currently have in scrimmages this spring. For now, it is a wait and see situation.

“We still may end up adding a portal guy as well,” Scalley said. “That’s the area that if you are saying ‘what’s keeping you up at night?’ That is it right now.”

Defensive Line

Not everything is doom and gloom for Utah’s defense. In fact, overall it sounds like they are on track to be every bit as good as they were last year, if not better. One group that could see significant improvement in 2022 is the defensive line. With another year under their belts, guys have bulked up and are better prepared to battle on the line of scrimmage. Defensive end Jonah Elliss happens to be one of those linemen.

“We’ve got a lot of those types that are athletic,” Scalley said. “Have speed off the edge and the ability to drop in coverage. [Elliss] allows us to do quite a bit. We can do a little bit more in our odd package with him. He’s also put on about 20 lbs. so now you are talking about being a little more stout in the run game with him.”

Junior Tafuna is another guy who came on strong as a freshman on the defensive line, but was maybe still a little light. By all accounts he’s made a big strides this spring and is poised for another big year.

“This is a guy who was playing linebacker/d-end in high school,” Scalley said. “He’s another one of those guys we knew was twitchy, but it was a matter of putting on the weight. Our staff, Lisa Everhart and our nutrition staff does an unbelievable job making sure we are putting on the right weight and not doing it so quick he dies on us. This guy has devoted his time during the off-season to putting on the right weight- he’s another 15 lbs. heavier than he was. He’s striking well. We anticipate him having a very special season.”

Safety Pride

It would be impossible to talk to Scalley without bringing up his baby, the safety room. While Vonte Davis will no longer be available due to graduation and hopefully finding a home in the NFL, Scalley is returning a young core group that includes Cole Bishop and Kamo’i Latu. Perhaps the biggest development in the safety room though has come from R.J. Hubert’s return from a season ending injury.

“He is out there running around making plays,” Scalley said of Hubert. “He’s a great leader and he’s what we hoped he would be after the surgery. Very, very athletic, can play down in the box. He is physical enough, he’s athletic enough to play in man coverage. He’s what we want.”

Bishop is another guy Scalley is high on in his safety room and for good reason. As a freshman Bishop came on strong for the Utes in the middle of the season, playing well beyond his years. With more familiarity with the scheme, there is reason to be optimistic about what Bishop will bring to the table in 2022.

“You never know how freshman are going to come into your program and handle everything that is new,” Scalley said. “From college classes to college curriculum, you know, just getting used to our way of doing things. He was ready to go. The one thing that limited him early on in the season was his hamstring. Otherwise I think he would have played a little sooner than he did. Stanford I think was his first game where he played and now he’s everything you want in terms of- you can go into the safety room right now and he’s watching film. He eats, sleeps and breaths football. He’s a great kid, he’s a great leader and his best days are ahead of him.”


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Morgan Scalley Discusses Positive Defensive Progress, One Area Of Concern