Salt Lake City, UT – I was able to get one on one interview over the phone with University of Utah Strong Safety Justin Taplin-Ross. Justin had the big shoes of Robert Johnson to fill this year, Johnson being drafted to the NFL last draft.
Utah has always been renowned for their deep ball play with the likes of Morgan Scalley, Eric Weddle, Brice McCain, and Sean Smith to name a few of the Utes recent secondary stars. So clearly, I was excited to talk with Justin (most experienced Safety on the Utes roster as far as game time last season) about the Utes secondary and his thoughts on the Pitt game and UNLV this week. The interview went as follows in Q&A format.
DC-Well first off, how does it feel to have the first game behind you?
JTR-Um, it feels great. Took forever to get here. Exciting game. Like everyone was pumped for this game, and we just wanted to make a name for ourselves cuz we had so many people leave on defense.
DC-I know how you feel. Seems like years between seasons. After containing Pittsburgh’s offense to below average numbers, how confident are you overall in the Utes defense moving forward?
JTR-I never really had any questions about our defense. I mean I’ve played with these guys since Spring. I mean the media was always up in our face talkin’ about “how do you guys feel losing Robert, Sly, Koa…” I mean, I’ve watched these guys perform so I’ve always had faith in the defense. And they always said our secondary would be the question but these guys, we’ve all played before except our true freshmen but I mean, we just did what I knew we were gonna do so…never had any doubt.
DC-Coach Whittingham is famous for taking one game at a time and not looking ahead or talking about future games. Is that true on the practice field as well? Does he hold you guys to that?
JTR-Oh always. We never (laughs) we never think about the games either, like he always after we win is like ‘who do we have next? …um I don’t know. We’ll come in Monday and take a look, see who we have next. Good win, we’ll see you guys on Monday.’
DC-(laughter) is there some type of penalty for bringing up a team that’s further down the line than the next week, like running wind sprints or something? Talking about TCU or the Y?
JTR-Oh…I don’t know cuz no one’s ever done it so…someone would have to do it to see what happens.
DC-Well, a few weeks ago on ESPN700’s “Bill and Spence Show”, they were discussing who would be the Utes most irreplaceable player and Bill actually brought up your name due to your playing time last year and the depth at Safety after losing so many players from last year like you mentioned. How has the safety position progressed since camp?
JTR-Um, we have a lot of guys moving up. Victor Spikes, (Greg) Bird,(Brian) Blechen, I mean there’s not gonna be a drop off. These guys, I watch ‘em practice. They play hard and run to the ball. You run to the ball and do your job. It’s pretty simple.
DC-And how impressed have you been with Brian (Blechen) this year?
JTR-I’ve been very impressed. For a freshman to come in, I mean he made a lot of mistakes but, first game, now that’s behind him. Wait till next game to see the improvement. A lot of guys came in and played but he made the big play at the end.
DC-Yeah, he redeemed himself for sure. (laughter)
JTR- Yeah (laughter)he did.
DC-Well, just a couple more questions for you. First off, how many picks are you going to have this year?
JTR-Ah man, I mean, (laughs) I’ll say, if they come to me they come. But I gotta calm down and stop over-thinking stuff. I coulda had a couple last game.
DC-And last, what do you expect out of UNLV’s passing game this Saturday?
JTR-UNLV? They got good passing. #4 (Phillip Payne), #7(Michael Johnson) are their “go to” guys. They like to take shots deep off of turnovers so we gotta be smart and stay deep.
DC-Well, I think I speak for all Ute fans when I say I’m excited to see what adjustments you guys are able to make and I can only see good things from here.
I’m predicting with how much UNLV loves to go to the air, Justin will have quite a busy afternoon Saturday Sept. 11th when UNLV comes into Rice-Eccles Stadium to face off with the #20 Utah Utes. Best of luck to him and the rest of the Utes!!!