Utah Defense Still Keying In On Run Defense Improvement

Sep 15, 2022, 10:38 AM
Elliss coaching up his defensive line. The Utes have a proud history of strong defensive tackle play that dates back to Elliss' time as a player. (Photo Courtesy of Utah Athletics.)
(Photo Courtesy of Utah Athletics.)

SALT LAKE CITY- If there is one thing Utah football is known for, it’s their suffocating run defense. By now, most are probably aware it didn’t show up in the Utes’ big season opener against Florida two weeks ago making it a point of emphasis last week against Southern Utah. The Utes’ defense did appear to make improvements there, holding the Thunderbirds to just 66 yards rushing versus the 283 yards the Gators racked up, but there are still some questions about how much the opponent played into the results.


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This week, Utah will be playing host to San Diego State in what many view as a potential revenge game. For the defense, focusing on the run will still be a big key for them as they look to sharpen things up before Pac-12 play starts.

Working On Stopping The Run

One of the biggest factors in the Utes’ ability to affectively stop the run has been their focus and attention on the defensive line. Defensive tackle coach Luther Elliss is partially in charge for what happens on the defensive line and says right now his group is in a bit of a learning curve, but that it’s no excuse either.

“Right now, I think we have the potential to be really good,” Elliss said of the run defense. “We have to do things the right way and the first game we didn’t get it done the right way. The second game was a lot better, different opponent but they are still respectable. Those are still big guys up front and did a good job up front as far as opponents, but I thought the guys responded how they should have this last week.”

While allowing the run to penetrate to the third tier of your defense is never ideal, the Utes can feel confident that there is enough experience in their defensive backfield to do any cleaning up that may be needed. Safety Cole Bishop is one of Utah’s “safety net” guys and he says he is seeing progress in the Utes’ ability to stop the run.

“We missed too many tackles and we’ve been working in practice on just being more physical as a whole,” Bishop said. “I think we are going to come out and show we are physical and tackle.”

Despite having a green group, Elliss says the one thing they have going for them that will help them to continue improving as the season goes on is that “dog” mentality. Utah isn’t lacking in players with desire to be tough and physical like the many, many defenses before them- it’s more about seasoning and there is confidence they will get there at the right time.

“I think we have guys- well, I call them ‘dogs’,” Elliss said. “Guys that want to play, guys that love this game, guys that want to get it done. When you have that kind of attitude, you have nothing but up. You can only get better and then guys feed off each other. I think you saw that this past game. Guys were feeding off each other and good things were happening. We have that kind of attitude and it’s a good thing no matter what is happening out there. As long as we still have that positive attitude and show up and be ‘dogs’ good things are going to happen.”

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