We say to coaches every year in the state that these guys are our first priority and the numbers will bear that out. —Kyle Whittingham, coach
SALT LAKE CITY — Now that Utah is in the Pac-12, it’s more imperative than ever for Utah coach Kyle Whittingham to attract top talent to its football program. Judging from the results of the 2012 recruiting class, the team is doing just that.
Whittingham told the media on letter-of-intent day that it was the best class on paper that he’s ever signed as Utah’s head coach. A top-25 national ranking by Rivals.com certainly testifies to that claim.
As the Ute coaching staff looks forward to compiling another top class for 2013, they’re likely to follow the same pattern that has brought them increasing success year by year. That pattern includes looking in state first.
Some people assumed that Utah would look elsewhere after its Pac-12 affiliation, concentrating on the more-publicized recruits from California and other places before focusing in state. With a record-high 10 signees from in state, that definitely doesn’t appear to be Whittingham’s course of action.
“The state of Utah is always our first priority,“ said Whittingham. “We put our money where our mouth is. We don’t just say that and then not recruit it. We say to coaches every year in the state that these guys are our first priority and the numbers will bear that out.”
The numbers certainly have illustrated that over the years. While signing 10 in-state prospects was a record for them, Utah has come very close to that mark several times over Whittingham’s seven signing classes as head coach.
2013 looks to bring another stellar in-state class with several top prospects already garnering a lot of attention. The list of top in-state prospects won’t be complete until the summer camp circuit begin in earnest, with other top prospects surfacing during that stage.
The top in-state talent for 2013 looks to be Cottonwood quarterback Cooper Bateman (6-foot-4, 205 pounds), who already has multiple scholarship offers, including offers from Utah, Utah State and BYU. His teammate and tight-end prospect, Saile Fakailoatonga (6-4 215), also has offers from the top two in-state programs with many more likely to come his way.
Bingham is a school that always produces top talent, and that certainly looks to be the case in 2013. Defensive tackle Lowell Lotulelei (6-2, 280) leads the way, with multiple Pac-12 offers already under his belt. Hayden Weichers (6-0, 170) plays wide receiver for the Miners and has attracted a lot of early looks.
Herriman sports two of the state’s top players in running back Francis Bernard (5-11, 215) and athlete Tueni Lupeamanu (6-2, 225) both of whom received offers from BYU early last summer with Utah also giving them a hard look.
Other top prospects include Sean Barton, a 6-3, 205-pound safety prospect from Woods Cross, who has already received multiple offers, Timpview quarterback Jake Lloyd (6-2, 180), Lone Peak running back-linebacker Talon Shumway (6-3, 200), Cottonwood defensive lineman Elijah Tupai (6-5, 250) and Riverton linebacker Albert Tai (6-0, 220).
While Utah is yet to receive a commit for 2013, that's sure to change in short order. The Utes will aim their focus on most of the prospects listed above while hoping to sign many, if not all, of the top prospects the state has to offer.
“I think the quality of football and the sheer quantity of Division I players coming out of the state has risen every year for the past 12 to 15years," said Whittingham. “I think we’re going to get a lot of mileage out of the players out of the state of Utah. We still have to supplement our roster with (out-of-state prospects), but I think you’re going to see the bulk of our roster going forward always Utah heavy.”