High school football: State's top recruits like prospect of staying home
Mike Terry, Deseret News
Ryker Mathews didn't grow up bleeding BYU blue.
Despite being born in American Fork and playing his high school football for the Cavemen, he also lived in Idaho and Hawaii for about five years during his impressionable days in elementary school. As a result, he never developed a loyalty to one school. If anything, he was anti-BYU.
That, however, was at the start of the recruiting process for the highly sought-after offensive lineman. While many of his peers will be signing their letters of intent this Wednesday during signing day, Mathews is already a full-time student at BYU. Mathews graduated from high school in December and he's already immersing himself into the college lifestyle.
One of the biggest things that drew him to BYU was offensive line coach Mark Weber.
"He's a great offensive line coach. I knew if I wanted to get better and be the best I could be, my best bet would be with him," said Mathews.
According to rivals.com, Mathews and Bingham running back Harvey Langi are the top two recruits to come out of Utah this year, and both graduated early. Within a week of verbally committing to the Utes on national television during the Army All-American Bowl, Langi was enrolled in classes at the University of Utah.
For two players who seemed destined to leave the state, staying home became too much to pass up.
"When I first got my offers from BYU and Utah, I wanted to go out of state and get away from what everyone else is doing. I kind of wanted to go out and see the world," said Mathews. "Once I started getting a little bit older and maturing in high school, I started to realize I wanted to be around my family."
That seems to be a common theme with the 2011 high school football recruiting class.
Unlike some years when BYU dominated the in-state recruiting, the 2011 class is balanced. Utah and BYU are expecting to each sign nine players on the scout.com top 20 list this Wednesday, while BYU expects to have an 8-6 edge on the rivals.com list.
"I just think for a lot of us to just leave and go out of state and start new would've been hard," said Highland receiver Nate Fakahafua, a Ute recruit.
One of the few players leaving Utah is Fakahafua's Highland teammate, Desmond Collins. The defensive lineman verbally committed to Oregon State during the Christmas break, and despite a late push by Utah to sway him, he said he's committed to the Beavers.
"For me, the offer was a little bit late. They just barely offered last week. I was already dead set on Oregon State after taking my trip," said Collins, a top 10 recruit who was instrumental in leading the Rams to the 4A state title this past season.
Like most of his peers, Collins was hesitant to go out of state, but his family reassured him they'd go watch him play wherever he ended up.
It's too early to tell how Utah's shift to the Pac-12 and BYU's shift to independent status will impact the recruiting landscape in the state. Most of the recruits had already verbally committed before the summer conference expansion hoopla. Utah's move to the Pac-12, however, likely swayed Langi from USC to Utah late in the recruiting process.
Unlike Langi, Fakahafua wanted to avoid the stress of recruiting and committed to Utah more than a year ago. He hasn't been able to escape it entirely though.
"A couple times in last couple months I've been second guessing myself, and I wanted to take trips to a couple places," said Fakahafua. "But I promised them I wouldn't. I kept my word to that. It's been little tough, but I'm staying here."
On Wednesday, numerous other top recruits around the state will put their verbal commitments in writing.