Red All Over: Why is Utah’s defense so good? Senior Bowl invites help tell the story.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Ute defensive backs Julian Blackmon, left, and Terrell Burgess have accepted invitations to the Senior Bowl in January.

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Utah defensive coordinator Morgan Scalley is one of 41 nominees for the Broyles Award, presented to the top assistant coach in college football. Scalley should be a strong candidate, considering the Utes rank No. 3 nationally in total defense.

He’s the beneficiary of some very good players. That point was driven home this week when four Ute defenders accepted invitations to the Senior Bowl: tackle Leki Fotu, linebacker Francis Bernard and safeties Terrell Burgess and Julian Blackmon. The Jan. 25 game in Mobile, Ala., is an NFL showcase, with personnel from every team watching practices.

More all-star invitations are sure to come to Utah’s seniors, another reminder of how everything has lined up for 2019 to become a potentially historic season.

The Utes’ home game Saturday vs. UCLA is part of a very busy week in Utah Athletics. So stick with me in this newsletter as I review and look ahead to a lot of Ute developments, including signing days in multiple sports.

— I’ll start with basketball, as the Utes made John Vu, the newly hired publicist for the men’s program, update the record books in multiple categories with a 143-49 win over Mississippi Valley State last Friday.

Coach Larry Krystkowiak then signed a highly ranked recruiting class of four players. The class was No. 5 as of Tuesday, when Krystkowiak discussed it in general terms. It fell slightly to No. 7 on Wednesday, the signing day, when Ute women’s coach Lynne Roberts signed a No. 20 class.

— Having watched former Ute stars Marquise Blair and Cody Barton play for the Seattle Seahawks the weekend when Utah played at Washington, I wrote about the Utah-centric Seahawks and their surprising season.

Coach Kyle Whittingham’s Monday news conference focused on UCLA’s improvement, as the Bruins come to town with a three-game winning streak.

Whittingham says he never breaks a season into segments, but fans and the media do. The perception is that Utah plays worse in November. Turns out, that’s a myth, but it’s true that November losses are more memorable.

Utah moved to No. 7 in this week’s College Football Playoff Top 25.

The Utes have had their share of memorable wins over the years, and here’s my list of 50 of them as the program celebrates the 150-year anniversary of college football by wearing “heritage” uniforms vs. UCLA.

— Utah women’s soccer received great news this week, being selected to the NCAA Tournament field. The Utes will play at Duke on Friday.

Other voices

Pac-12 expert Jon Wilner covers his usual broad range of subjects, including a major officiating mistake in the California-Washington State game (MERC).

Heather Dinich of ESPN pointed out that if the College Football Playoff started today, Utah would be in the Cotton Bowl, one of the New Year’s Six games (ESPN).

Joe Coles of the Deseret News looked at Burgess, Blackmon and the rest of Utah’s pass defense (DNEWS).

Around campus

• Utah Athletics has launched a website to market the Rice-Eccles Stadium expansion project, kengarffperformancezone.com. The school also is developing a preview center that’s soon to open, next to the stadium ticket office.

• Utah will host the NCAA men’s and women’s Mountain Region Championships in cross country Friday at Rose Park Golf Course. The Utes’ No. 9-ranked women’s team is part of a strong field that includes No. 3 BYU, No. 8 Colorado, No. 10 New Mexico, No. 15 Air Force and No. 16 Northern Arizona.

That race will partly determine the qualifying teams for the NCAA meet, Nov. 23 at Terre Haute, Ind. At-large berths will be announced Saturday.

• UCLA turned back hundreds of tickets for Saturday’s football game (6 p.m.), so Utah’s marketing staff created a clever promotion, tied into the women’s basketball game vs. South Dakota (noon). Basketball admission is free; when the game ends, the staff will distribute free football tickets.

There’s a shuttle from the Guardsman Way tailgate lot to the Huntsman Center (although it’s an easy walk). During the basketball game, Utah will offer special football-related gifts, including sideline passes and autographed balls.

The bonus is that South Dakota is a very good team, ranked No. 1 among mid-major programs by ESPN. The Utes are staging their home opener after losing at Cincinnati and Xavier last week.

• Utah’s No. 15-ranked women’s volleyball team, as usual, has a demanding weekend. The Utes (18-7, 10-4 Pac-12) are in a four-way tie for second place in the conference. Utah will visit No. 22 Washington State on Friday and No. 13 Washington on Sunday. Those teams also are part of the tie for second.

• The Ute men’s golf program signed two Davis County products, Braxton Watts of Farmington High School and Brandon Robison of Viewmont. Robison made the finals of the State Jr. Amateur in June, beating Preston Summerhays along the way — about a month before Summerhays won his second State Amateur title and then became the U.S. Junior Amateur champion.

• Utah’s women’s softball program added eight players: Aliya Balarde, an infielder from Lakewood, Calif.; Alicia Estrada, a pitcher from Oxnard, Calif.; MK Gomez, an outfielder from Copper Hills High School in West Jordan; Sophie Jacquez, an infielder from Rancho Murrieta, Calif.; Mariah Lopez, a pitcher from Peoria, Ariz.; Leilani Melendez, a catcher from La Mirada, Calif.; Shelbi Ortiz, an outfielder from Huntington Beach, Calif.; and Savanah Whatley, an infielder from Oakley, Calif.

• Utah’s gymnastics signees include Deanne Soza of Coppell, Texas; Jaylene Gilstrap of McKinney, Texas; and Lucy Stanhope of Warrington, England.

• With few seniors on the 2020 roster, the Ute baseball program has added four players, including three Utahns: catcher/pitcher Owen Mortensen of Bingham High School, third baseman Kai Roberts of Skyridge HS and pitcher Noah Turley of Wasatch HS. Ben Kibbe is a pitcher from Zilah, Wash.

• Utah’s men’s tennis signees are Bruno Krenn of Calabasas, Calif., and Wally Thayne of Newbury Park, Calif.