Signing day shaping up to be a pretty good one for the Utes

Published: Monday, Jan. 30 2012 3:36 p.m. MST

Lone Peak quarterback Chase Hansen throws a pass as Alta's Tupou Aagard tackles him during the first half of a football game at Lone Peak High School in Highland on Friday, September 24, 2010.

Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

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Breaking BYU, University of Utah, and Utah State 2012 national signing day coverage

» Follow the Deseret News sports team for breaking BYU, Utah, and Utah State 2012 national signing day coverage.

Editor's note: This is the second in a three-part series examining the recruiting efforts of the state's three Division I football programs leading up to Wednesday's 2012 National Letter of Intent Day. Read part 1 here. Read part 3 here.

SALT LAKE CITY — When it comes to recruiting, Utah coach Kyle Whittingham acknowledges that things are a little bit different now that the Utes have switched conferences. The original BCS busters are now on the inside.

"With the transition into the Pac-12 we no longer have to explain our situation and the circumstances," said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham. "In that respect it has changed and everybody knows we're a member of the Pac-12 Conference. So that's where we're at."

As such, he added: "Virtually every kid we're on, we're recruiting against most of the Pac-12."

And it's highly competitive.

Utah assistant coach Morgan Scalley, who also serves as the program's recruiting coordinator, said Pac-12 membership has altered the landscape. Losing a player to the Utes when they were in the Mountain West Conference was one thing, the prospect of facing them for four years in league play is quite another.

"There's so much more competition as far as trying to keep guys away from schools and trying to poach," Scalley said. "We've seen just so much of that, an increase of that this year, and it's only going to get worse."

For the most part, the Utes are now in the mix for more highly recruited players than in years past.

Even so, some things haven't changed all that much over the years.

"I think recruiting is the same. The mechanics of it, or the process, doesn't change. You don't recruit any differently than you did before," Whittingham said. "It's very competitive. Recruiting is no different than game day in a lot of respects. It's a battle. You're going to win some and you're going to lose some."

All you can do, he added, is recruit players the best way you can and do the best job you can to sell the program.

Whittingham is expecting Utah to receive around 25 binding commitments Wednesday on National Signing Day — including returned missionaries, who sign scholarship/financial aid papers.

The 2012 signing class, he added, is shaping up to be a pretty good one for the Utes.

"We've been able to address our needs, which is obviously the first order of business," Whittingham said. "And in addition to that, I think we're going to be able to bring some very good players to the program."

While a vast majority of the recruits have already made their intentions to sign with Utah known, Wednesday could be bring some welcomed additions as well.

"Just like in years past, there's about four or five players that are still deliberating and trying to decide where they're going to go," Whittingham said.

Tom Cella, publisher of utezone.com (a rivals.com affiliate), has identified several possibilities for Utah — involving players who made official visits to Salt Lake City.

The potential signees include Pleasant Grove offensive lineman Brandon Fanaika and California high school defensive end Pio Vatuvei. Fanaika and Vatuvei gave non-binding verbal commitments to Stanford and USC, respectively, earlier in the recruiting process.

Other situations to watch involve cornerback Brandon Beaver (6-1, 176, Dominguez HS, Calif.) and linebacker Moana Ofahengaue (6-4, 205, Westlake HS). Beaver took trips to California, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Washington. Ofahengaue, meanwhile, has reportedly made visits to Arizona, Florida State and Michigan.

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