Valero Alamo Bowl: Texas vs Utah
Saturday, December 28, 2019
THE MODERATOR: Thank you for joining us for the Utah defense. It’s my pleasure to introduce Utah Defensive Coordinator Morgan Scalley. Coach, could you introduce your players and open with an opening statement about how bowl preparation has gone?
MORGAN SCALLEY: You bet, Bradlee Anae, defensive end, we’ve got Leki Fotu, defensive tackle, linebacker, Francis Bernard and safety Terrell Burgess. Fired up to be here. I’ve recruited Texas for 12 years, and always — everything is bigger in Texas. Football is big. It’s big time. So to play Texas here in this setting in a great bowl game, we’re fired up. Quality opponent, their offense starts up front. They do a great job, especially with the quarterback being a running threat of running the football, and then with their wide receivers, long kids that we’ve got to be able to body up and cover. They’re efficient on offense, do a great job of securing the football, as well. So we’ve got our work cut out for us, and we’re excited to play.
Q. Bradlee, when Texas played Georgia last year, Georgia fans and a lot of people said, well, they didn’t really want to be there. They’re already knocked out of the CFP. You guys are in the same position Georgia was. How fired up and motivated are you to play in this bowl game?
BRADLEE ANAE: Just ready to go. We have one more shot as a group of seniors here to leave the program better than we found it, and so we’re fired up and ready to go.
Q. Morgan, Coach Naivar was just in here and I think he said y’all are a damned good team, like 50 times. What do you think has been the secret to y’all’s defensive success this year, and specifically how has Bradlee been able to have such a great year when just on paper he might be a little undersized but has fantastic stats?
MORGAN SCALLEY: Well, first of all, we have good players. We have good players. We have senior leadership, upperclassmen leadership, best we’ve ever had, I think, at the University of Utah, and it goes a long way. When you have players that buy into your culture and your way of doing things and they hold other guys accountable to it then you have something special. I also believe our best players are our hardest workers, so usually you’re having to harp on guys, practice hard, we don’t have to do that at Utah with this group.
Next year that may be a different story. We may have to get that going a little bit. But very good players, upperclassmen lead by example and hold people accountable, and then in terms of Bradlee, as long as you’ve got a high motor, okay, and he’s athletic, you’re going to make plays. And he’ll be the first to tell you that having a good secondary is another reason for his success. Having guys that can cover. But Bradlee, since the moment he stepped on campus, has had a high motor and a high care factor, and it’s the reason why — are you leading now? Are you the leading sack —
BRADLEE ANAE: I need one more.
MORGAN SCALLEY: Well, get it. Geez, let’s do it. And can’t say enough about the rest of these guys. Again, it’s all about the players, and going to miss these guys a lot. Going to miss these guys a lot.
Q. Terrell, from a leadership standpoint could you talk about getting a guy like Jason Shelley acclimated on the fly in only three or four weeks?
TERRELL BURGESS: I think it’s just — in this program we teach a lot, next man up, and he was asked to move to safety, give him a better possibility to get on the field, and I think he’s acclimating very well. It’s hard to teach somebody any position, but if they’re willing to try and do it, that’s what makes it easier. It’s been going well. I’m excited to see him get on the field at some point and see what he can do.
Q. Terrell, what specifically have you learned from the Oregon game? It’s been almost a month now?
TERRELL BURGESS: I mean, we try not to talk about games. We’re on to Texas now. But I think we just learned that we’ve got to make tackles. We’ve got to win — it sucks to lose, but it happens. Anybody can lose on any given day. They had a great scheme. They played a great game. But we’re on to Texas now.
Q. Morgan, what does a guy like Jav Guidry do to your defense, and is he y’all’s answer to Devin Duvernay on Texas’s team?
MORGAN SCALLEY: Well, he’s one of the answers. That’s a dynamic football player. But Javelin is a dynamic football player. When you can win the 100 meters in the state of Texas and in the state of California, there’s something special about you, okay. He’s got a ton of speed. Very underrated football player on our team. Not a lot of people talk about him because not a lot of people go at him. So excited for that match-up when he does get that match-up, and any time you’ve got defensive backs like that that can cover, that can cover man-to-man on a consistent basis, it allows you to do some different things up front, bring pressure in ways that you couldn’t if you couldn’t cover. He’s a valuable piece to what we do.
Q. You said y’all recruit Texas and you head it up. Do you have several coaches recruiting?
MORGAN SCALLEY: We have three in the state of Texas.
Q. Do you have three in other states?
MORGAN SCALLEY: Well, the majority are going to be within our Pac-12 footprint. We draw the majority of our skill players out of California. Florida has become a big part of what we’re doing recruiting-wise, and Texas. But yeah, three in Texas just because we’ve had strong relationships there and have been able to get some quality players.
Q. Is Utah maybe the most underrated program in the country?
MORGAN SCALLEY: I don’t know that. I don’t know that. I know that we love our players, and Kyle Whittingham, could not coach for a better man. He runs a quality program. You saw that he got the Bobby Dodd Coach of the Year, and he deserves it. He preaches integrity. You look at our academic track record, and there’s a reason Utah has been successful. It’s in large part because of Kyle Whittingham, and he’ll point it back to these guys. It’s all about the players.
Q. Morgan, how would you describe how the secondary has come together in these three weeks without Jaylon Johnson and Julian Blackmon?
MORGAN SCALLEY: Well, you know, coming together, they are together. They’ve been together since day one, adding a piece like Jason Shelley. It’s easy when they’re willing. And he’s willing. And he’s done nothing but get better every day. Nephi Sewell has practiced with us. Obviously a lot more since he became eligible.
But this is not a hard group to get to bond, to get to gel. You know, in terms of facing an opponent like Texas, they’ve got to get to know the scheme. They have to know what are their strengths, what do we have to stop, what are our strengths, what can we draw upon.
So it has not been hard getting them to gel because we’ve already had that. But in terms of them working together, right, having a guy like Jason that’s never played on the defensive side of the ball, having a guy like Nephi that’s fairly new in terms of being eligible, that’s been the thing that we’ve been working on, and they’re practicing well. Very, very solid practices throughout bowl prep.
Q. Francis, what are your overall impressions of Texas and what you’ve seen on film so far?
FRANCIS BERNARD: Just to echo what Coach Scalley said, they’re a good team. Offensively they do good things. Just like Coach said, it all starts up front. They do a good job trying to establish the line of scrimmage, and so once they can do that, they’re able to do multiple things, whether it’s run the ball, whether it’s get the ball to their receiver, No. 6, or run the ball with the quarterback. So they’re a good team. We’re excited to play, and it’s going to be a good ballgame.
Q. We’ve talked a lot about how you guys coming back this year was kind of a nice thing for you to be able to kind of play together. What’s it mean now to just actually finalize that in a bowl setting?
LEKI FOTU: Just means a lot to finish this year with the guys that we came in with our class. You know, we still have a test to make this a special one, and we look forward to doing that next week.
Q. For Leki and Bradlee, Jaylon decided to not play in the game. Why did you guys decide to play in this game when the trend for a lot of guys around college football are to skip the bowl game? Why is this so meaningful for you?
BRADLEE ANAE: It’s another shot at proving some more stuff you have to prove for yourself, another opportunity to put some good film on for whoever is watching.
LEKI FOTU: Just same thing as Brad. On the one hand, I feel like I owe it to the program. I’ve never been the type of guy to miss a game for anything, and also just to play with everyone one last time.
Q. Morgan, we’ve talked kind of ad nauseam about how you switched players up in the program. Can you kind of break it down, the move for Jason to the defensive backfield from your standpoint? Does Coach Whitt come to you and say, hey, we want to put Shelley at safety; what do you think? Give us an idea how this works.
MORGAN SCALLEY: Well, the conversations had do you think he can do it? Well, athletically we thought he could do it. How that conversation went with him, I have no idea. He said yes, and it’s my job to coach him up. He’s a smart young man that is athletic, and again, it’s one thing when you get a guy like that and you’re teaching him, and they go back and the next day you’re not seeing any improvement. Well, he goes home and works on it, and the next day all of a sudden he’s weaving the right way, he’s doing things that you’re like, okay, I can tell you went home and you practiced. He’s doing that.
So that’s why I expect him to have success. How early that success is going to happen, we’ll find out. But very excited to coach this young man.