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Utah football: USU personal game for Utah coordinator

Published September 4, 2012 7:47 pm

Utah football notes • Sitake worked with Andersen at SUU.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Much of the focus on Friday's Utah-Utah State football game is on the relationship between Utah coach Kyle Whittingham and Utah State coach Gary Andersen, who was a Utah assistant for 11 years.

However, Friday's game that pits friends against friends is just as hard on current Utah defensive coordinator Kalani Sitake.

Sitake not only has the task of guiding a defensive scheme Andersen knows well, but also coaching against a guy he considers his mentor.

Sitake coached with Andersen at SUU before following him to Utah.

"He is the whole reason I am here," Sitake said. "I was able to watch them together, and that was a huge benefit for me. I learned as much as I can from them, and no one doubted Gary was going to succeed at Utah State. No one is going to work harder than he is, and you can see that in the way the guys play at Utah State."

On the QB

Whittingham said Utah State quarterback Chuckie Keeton's ability to both run and throw the ball presents a "headache" for defensive coordinators.

Keeton was 22-of-25 for 304 yards and two touchdowns in the Aggies' 34-3 win over SUU.

"He is a tremendous athlete with a good arm who moves well in the pocket," Whittingham said.

Whittingham said he hasn't seen much of Keeton, but noted from watching film he has improved since last year when the Aggies nearly upset Auburn.

"He has become a little more poised and effective each week as his career has unfolded," he said.

Of note

Tight end Westlee Tonga, who suffered a concussion, should be cleared to rejoin the team in practice by Tuesday or Wednesday. ... Former Utah lineman John Cullen, who was waived by the San Diego Chargers in August, has joined the Utes as a student assistant. He should have his degree in sociology this semester, Whittingham said.