Why Urban Meyer believes Utah coach Kyle Whittingham is best in college football

Urban Meyer explained that Kyle Whittingham, his successor as head coach at Utah, has proven to be the best coach in the sport following the Utes’ win at USC. 

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Oct. 26, 2023 5:44 p.m. ET

Urban Meyer is a big fan of his successor at Utah. In fact, he doesn’t think anyone has done a better job than him across the college football landscape.

The former Utes head coach said Kyle Whittingham is the best coach in college football amidst Utah’s 6-1 start to the season, particularly praising him for its win at USC in Week 8 with its third-string quarterback.

“I’ve said many times that Kyle Whittingham’s one of the best coaches in college football,” Meyer said on his podcast, “Urban’s Take with Tim May.” “Now he’s the best. He’s the best coach in college football.”

Whittingham, who has been at the helm in Utah since Meyer left following the 2004 season, continued some of the success the team had when he was the defensive coordinator under Meyer, getting the Utes to double-digit wins in their last three seasons in the Mountain West. It took some time for Whittingham’s program to adjust when it joined the Pac-12 in 2001, but Utah has won at least nine games in six of the last 11 full seasons. 

That stretch includes back-to-back Pac-12 championships for Utah in the last two seasons, going 9-3 in each regular season before pulling off upsets in the conference title game. Last season, Utah defeated USC in the conference title game with its hard-nosed defense, defeating eventual Heisman winner Caleb Williams and his squad, 47-24, after the Utes defeated the Trojans in a high-scoring affair earlier in the season.

No. 18 USC Trojans vs. No. 14 Utah Utes Highlights

While Utah entered last weekend’s Pac-12 Championship Game rematch with one loss and a higher ranking than USC, the Utes were seven-point underdogs as their offense has struggled to navigate success this season as quarterback Cameron Rising will miss the entire year with a knee injury. Still, Utah was in control for much of the game before USC took a 32-31 lead with 1:46 left.

But walk-on quarterback Bryson Barnes led Utah down the field, picking up multiple big plays to help set the Utes up for a game-winning 38-yard field goal as time expired. Meyer believes that final drive personified Whittingham’s Utah program. 

“It’s a third-string quarterback in Bryson Barnes that, if you watch that drive, he threw a pick-six in the fourth quarter,” Meyers said. “They didn’t score a couple of times. USC takes the lead and this guy takes ’em on a two-minute drive. He runs over a safety. He scrambles and puts them in field-goal range after a penalty. It’s really why you watch college football.

“Kyle’s comment about Caleb Williams is a Heisman, which he is. Caleb Williams is an incredible player. ‘They have their Heisman, we have a pig farmer from Utah.’ I wish we were doing that game because I wanted to go watch ’em and shake his hand, that quarterback, because you know how I love toughness. Go back and watch that last drive. He ran over the safety, but the last one he runs 30 yards on a play that’s dead and they kick a field goal and beat USC.”

As Whittingham has turned Utah into a constant Pac-12 contender, Meyer revealed that he almost didn’t keep him on the Utes’ staff when he was hired to be the head coach there in 2003. Meyer, who was the Bowling Green coach at the time, said that he and Whittingham, who was Utah’s defensive coordinator and linebackers coach, were both interviewing to be Utah’s head coach at the same time and was advised not to hire Whittingham when he got the job. 

But Meyer said he recognized how good Utah’s defense had been in the previous few seasons, leading him to ask himself the question, “What am I, stupid?”

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“This guy knows the conference,” Meyer said. “He knows the personnel on our team. He’s a good person. Yeah, he’s a little different personality, but so am I. The two of us, I can’t imagine a better working relationship even to this day. That’s how close I am with him. That’s the respect I have for him.”

“He’s culture and discipline. He’s tough as nails. His father was an NFL coach for a long time and I mean, Fred Whittingham is one of the toughest cats. I met him before he passed away. I can go on and on about Kyle Whittingham and what he’s done. He’s not one of the best. He’s the best coach in college football.”

Utah will hope to put itself in pole position to make the Pac-12 Championship Game on Saturday when it hosts No. 8 Oregon (3:30 p.m. ET on FOX and the FOX Sports app). 

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