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Matt Piper and Kyle Goon
Matt Piper and Kyle Goon cover University of Utah sports teams for The Salt Lake Tribune. Matt Piper is on twitter at @matthew_piper, Kyle Goon is on twitter at @kylegoon

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Utah defense ready for a better week

Asked how things were going Friday and Utah defensive coordinator Kalani Sitake gave a half-hearted grin. "I've had better weeks," he said.

If he has his way, he'll have a better week ahead as well.

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Sitake believes his defense is better than it showed in the loss to Arizona State, when the Utes fell behind 21-0 in a span of minutes.

Even though the Utes are facing their biggest challenge of the year when they play USC, he doesn't believe it's time to hit the panic button.

"We're anxious to show we are different than how we played in the last game," he said. "We'll see how it goes, but I like the mindset they have. We made some mental mistakes in the last game and we think we have eliminated them."

Sitake said the Utes are giving some younger players more chances in practice and likes the way linebacker Jacoby Hale and defensive end Niasi Leota are playing. Leota's development is particularly important since end Joe Kruger missed the ASU game with a foot injury and still isn't healthy.

The other notable move is switching V.J. Fehoko from linebacker to defensive end. Sitake said he likes Fehoko's pass rushing instinct.

"He was the all-time sack leader in Hawaii so we think he'll do a lot better rushing the quarterback for us," he said. "It's a more natural position for him and we need to use his strength. Besides, with his background as a linebacker he can drop back so we can do some different things."

As for the Utes in general, defensive leader Trevor Reilly said the Utes have a much better outlook than they did a few days ago. The Utes had a team meeting on Monday to talk about why things went wrong against ASU.

"The first few days sucked," he said. "I know I was pissed off and it was the same with a lot of guys. But we're turning a new page. A couple of days ago we let it go and we'll learn from our mistakes."

- Lya Wodraska

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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