Question: With what you guys accomplished last year and coming into this season, what do you feel you've learned and how do you feel you've grown and evolved as a coach and as a human being in the program?
Sharrieff Shah: "You never know what you're able to withstand until it's right upon you. I never thought that I would be able to get some of my young kids to play through the level of pain that they went through. I didn't know if I could respond that way. But you are able to do so much more than you think you can. Thats what I learned and kids will respond in the exact same manner. You know, it's really more than anything I've ever seen. What you put your mind to, you can absolutely do because we had to set aside so much, time and time again throughout the season. We set aside, and what folks don't understand as well. We had some success. It almost felt heavier. Like you didn't want to mess it up. Like you really wanted to do a really good job for other folks that we lost and you start pressing too hard. So it was really trying to rein back the emotion. Sometimes control your emotion. But it was achievable. And even though it felt in the moment sometimes insurmountable. It was absolutely achievable. So you can do hard things. I tell my my own children, you're tough as nails. I said to my football players, you're tough as nails, tough as nails mentally and physically. So that's what I learned about myself. That despite what it may look like it's okay, we can get through it and not only get through it, we can really thrive and excel."
Question: Can you tell me about Clark Phillips development and what you've seen out of him, particularly his growth?
Sharrieff Shah: "Clark continues to master the small things. That's what I love about him. When he first got here, we met so much it was ridiculous. Because of the COVID year, we had so many more opportunities to visit on Zoom, and talk, and he would be up here just as much as I'd be up here. I'm like, I'm at the facility, 'Coach I'm coming.' Whether it's in the afternoon, the evening, two in the morning. It didn't matter, he was coming. So he had an insatiable appetite from the beginning. And he fell in love with film and I told him, if you really want to become the player, that you really are aspiring to be, fall in love with film, fall in love with watching yourself and great corners, great receivers, don't get tired of the jewels and the nuggets that are embedded in true film study. And that that's what I'm most proud about with Clark. He's calling me now, telling me about our opponents, not just Florida but the next few opponents. 'Coach I was watching them, I was watching them,' and it fires me up when you have a ballplayer like that. So really his acumen has increased his desire to become really a smart football player has increased so much. Clark continues to change his body. You know when he first guy here, he was such a rock and he's still cut and chiseled. But he's trying to elongate those muscles. And I've seen it firsthand the explosion that I've witnessed that he didn't have his first year here. He's able to move and get in and out of a break so much more quickly, much more fluid. I love his desire to make plays where he's like, 'Coach, I'm gonna take a chance,' and it's becoming really a calculated chance where film study, his own confidence is starting to produce really good results and that's what I'm seeing in fall camp. Just his evolution of confidence, you know, film study, and his ability to start trusting his body and instincts."
Question: You've got a lot of depth in this group. Players returning with experience both with you know, Clark and JT, but also Faybian and Zemaiah. How do you balance getting some of the younger guys developed while also keeping the rest of the group sharp? You talked about Clark trying to elongate those muscles and everything like that? How does that go when you're preparing for an opponent like Florida?
Sharrieff Shah: "You have to be absolutely transparent. When you have a collection of really good ballplayers and kids who are now returning to the room with experience, and kids that you're going to rely on heavily, like Clark or to Travis. I mean, we don't win the championship last year without Faybian Marks or Zemaiah Vaughn, Malone Mataele. We don't win, and those players come back now with a renewed and new sense of confidence, and accomplishment. So I remember in 2018 and 2019, I was able to rotate quite a few ball players and I told them in the beginning of fall camp. 'Listen, no one is going to play 70 plays this game. Nobody, I'm not going to run anybody into the ground because if we can stay fresh and still be productive, and everybody eats, we're going to be a phenomenal, phenomenal unit.' So this is what I'm telling this group. I want them to to make every single rep that they earn count. Don't count the reps. Just make the reps count. And they're starting to really understand that everybody can achieve their dreams. No one has to play 70 plays in order to get on the NFL's radar. 'Coach, I didn't play 69 and a half plays, they won't see me.' I promise you, they'll find you and they'll see you if you're showing up in your 20 plays, your 25 plays. And if we're able to manage it in that fashion, we go through having healthier corners, more productive corners. And you know in the waning moments of the game, that fourth quarter, we're not exhausted. We're fresher when teams are taking the ball deep on us. If we can just bring everybody along and they understand that we'll all be successful. If we are earning the playing time. And we're not worried about how many reps I'm getting but every single rep that I do get is counting. So transparency."
Question: If you think back to March of 2020 when Clark Phillips first showed up, Did he come off as maybe a little more mature, a little more prepared? A little more ready than your average college freshman?
Sharrieff Shah: "Yes, Clark, reminded me of Jaylon Johnson. Jaylon told me at his house in Fresno. He said, 'Coach, I'll be with you for three years. I'm going to earn my degree, and I'm going into the league.' Man, did he do exactly what he said he was going to do. And I told Jaylon, if you really want to do that it will require a Herculean effort from you. You have to give up a certain things, you can't party like these other boys, you need to get more sleep. And he did it and followed it to just to the letter of the law. Clark is almost the exact same. 'Coach here are my goals, I want to be an All-Conference player. I want to be here with you for this many years. I want to get my degree and I want to go to the league.' Clark has worked himself into a phenomenal position and being somebody that the league is considering a potential top round prospect, and for good reason. But he did come more mature. Clark never came to Utah following anybody else's lead. He is always expressed his belief and faith in God. He's held himself out as a man that does not want to do certain things because it goes against his morals and his beliefs, that kind of that that drew a lot of just you know, the boys are going to be boys and so they teased him like, 'Oh, you're too cool to kick it with us,' or, 'You don't like us because we're not this type of way.' He was mature enough as a freshman to say, 'Yeah, I don't want to do that. I don't want to be around this group of individuals. I don't want to put myself in this position. You know, being at this type of party.' He just understood that which is a credit to his mother and father, phenomenal people who I absolutely love and adore. But they raised their children to be God fearing children, to be able to stand up for what they believe, and not follow but lead. And if I'm only leading myself to the right path, then that's all the numbers I need. And so Clark was comfortable in his own skin, and it proved to be so beneficial for him when he wasn't chasing the crowd, because now the crowd is starting to chase him in his example of film study, extra work after practice, getting guys together on the weekend. Just yesterday, Sunday. I had five of the guys in the room. I was just there working by myself and they pop up. Im like, Look at you guys, here to do what you're here to do, watching film, I loved it. And that wasn't always the case. But that's the culture that we tried to kind of promulgate in the cornerback room, work harder, just work harder and good. Things happen if you just work harder."
Question: What are you seeing from JT Broughton now that he's back?
Sharrieff Shah: "JT. I absolutely love that boy. You know, it was so good to have him back this spring. Because he came in just rusty. You know, and you can play corner your whole life and when you've been out for four or five months you remember it, you remember certain things, but it's still that muscle memory and having the rust knocked off is painful. So he came in heavier than he wanted to be. We didn't trust his shoulder as much so some of the blocks almost appeared, are you scared to strike and JT has never been that way. So when he got comfortable using the shoulder, when he started running, and his weight began to get exactly where he wanted to be, you can see his confidence just soar. He is such a valuable asset to our room, not only because of the plays that he's made for the program, but the workman like attitude he brings every day. Just a pleasant kid to be around, fun in the room. So he gives us the depth that we need because JT is one of my more physical corners, you know, given his size and about six feet, right at around 193, legitimate four-three kid, but he shows up on the edge. JT had, and I tell the boys in the room, he had one of the nicest blocks on run support. The new rule as you will know, the corners cannot cut the big alignment anymore. So my guys are like, 'Well, what are we gonna do?' Well, let's play big boy football. You need to put your hands right on his face mask. And JT came up, met the lineman right behind the line of scrimmage, one yard, smacked him, separated, threw him off and made the play. I was like, I can look at that play 100 times, and that is the epitome of what JT brings, just a silent assassin. Never up never down just always even keeled. You can coach him as hard as you want to. He doesn't shy away from it. But he brings another level of maturity to the room we need when we go through the ups and downs of what a college football season will be."
Question: In terms of special teams, who will be returning kicks and punts?
Sharrieff Shah: "Yeah, that he has yet to be determined. I can tell you that a few people look fantastic back there. Whether it's on the punt return side, Vele, I love Kuithe, I love Money Parks, Clark Phillips, you know, they're a bevy of boys that are consistently putting in good reps during that specialist period that I can go back and really track how they're seeing that ball come off that punters leg, are they able to kind of adjust on those windy days? So those are the folks that are kind of gaining my attention right now. Also Tiquan Gilmore, our JUCO kid that just came in, he checks the ball really well. As it relates to kick off returners. Personally, who I love the most right now is Micah Bernard followed again by Clark Phillips, easily Money Parks, Vele. That off-returner would be either you know could be Sione Vaki, who is just freakish athlete, great hands, unbelievable blocker. Then again, having, whether it's Vele service both the primary and off, Makai Cope, Caine Savage, Charlie Vincent, we have a quite a few people that have demonstrated, 'Coach I can feel the ball, I can make good decisions, and I have the ability to get this ball going north and south quickly.'"
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