Whittingham sums it up when he says, “When you look at the highest-rated prospects — those listed by Scout.com or Rivals.com — we’re not going to come out on top very often. There are a few exceptions. We can compete for the Polynesian athletes because of our culture here. There are a lot of Polynesians and we have had a lot of success with them. And we can compete for the LDS kids. We’re not BYU, but there are thousands of LDS girls to date here and we have the large institute on campus. But other than that, we don’t have a niche to get into those top prospects in California.”
The Utes instead bank on developing players and discovering overlooked players or players who were playing out of position. Ute coaches have analyzed the results of the recruiting services that rate prep football players — Rivals. Com and Scout.com. As Whittingham notes, the scouting services have proven to be “pretty accurate” in sizing up talent, especially now that there is so much online access to video, but there is also hope in those rankings for the Utes.
“If you look at the all-Pac-12 teams," says Whittingham, "the greatest number of the players were three-star recruits (five stars being the best); that means someone did a good job of evaluating what they can do in college and what they can grow into. Maybe they were a pretty good high school quarterback, but they were better at free safety (in college). You have to be able to project and develop what players can be.”
Whittingham continues, “One thing that gets overlooked: Four- and five-star athletes have been told how great they are since they were 8, and sometimes they come with a sense of entitlement. They’re not as hungry. There is a lot to be said for developing players and for players who want to be developed.”
The Utes’ recruiting program will continue much the same as always. Utah athletes are the Utes’ biggest recruiting priority, then comes California. They do a little recruiting in the Northwest, Idaho and Arizona. But after Utah and California, the Utes’ best recruiting grounds are in Texas and the South. Assistant coach Morgan Scalley has been successful in the Houston area in recent years — there are 16 Texans on this year’s roster. The Utes, who have several Polynesian coaches on their staff, have assigned assistant coach Ilaisa Tuiaki to mine Polynesian talent at two Dallas-area schools, Euless Trinity and L.D. Bell. Another assistant, Brian Johnson, a native of Texas, is finding talent in Louisiana.
“We feel Louisiana is a really good place for us," says Whittingham. "The best kids there are going to LSU, Georgia and Mississippi. But the next level kid is not high on going to Tulane or Louisiana-Monroe or Louisiana Tech.”
No matter where the Utes go, they're looking for the same recruits — kids who were bypassed by the traditional powers. They hope that's enough to compete in the Pac-12.
Doug Robinson's columns run on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. EMAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org
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