Utah high school football coaches frustrated that many schools have passed over prospects
Ben Brewer, Deseret News
Bingham football coach Dave Peck is perplexed.
This Wednesday, his school will host a signing day party in the morning for the eight Bingham football players who will sign national letters of intent, but incredibly only one is headed to a Division I FBS school.
That lone FBS scholarship recipient isn’t even staying in-state either — tight end Dalton Schultz is headed for the greener pastures of Stanford.
It just doesn’t make sense to Peck. After all, Bingham won the 5A state championship last fall with a perfect 14-0 record and finished the year ranked 20th nationally in the MaxPreps Xcellent 25 rankings. Peck can’t imagine how none of those kids could help Utah, BYU or Utah State.
“I don’t know what to think,” said Peck. “I’m way frustrated.”
It’s a sentiment shared by many of his peers.
“It’s hard, because as coaches we take it personally when our kids get what you feel is the snub, and then you see teams take kids from out of state when you feel your kids are just as good or better,” said Pleasant Grove coach Les Hamilton.
When the ink dries this Wednesday on national signing day, 28 Utah kids from the 2014 graduating class are expected to sign at FBS programs. That’s down 15 from the 43 who signed last year, but on par with the previous three years.
Hamilton doesn’t see any reason why there’s such a drop-off for the 2014 graduating class.
“I don’t think this is a weaker group. I think in-state colleges are spending more time out of state, and if I’m wrong, well then that’s the colleges' job to prove me wrong,” said a frustrated Hamilton “At this point, I think Utah does a fantastic job getting the top players in our state every year. BYU’s footprint has gotten less and less and less in our state, same with Utah State.”
The University of Utah is expected sign nine in-state recruits this Wednesday, followed by Utah State with six and BYU with three. Eight recruits are heading out of state, while two more — Granger’s Kenyon Frison and Timpview’s Isaiah Nacua — are still undecided.
If indeed the 2014 class is weaker than 2013 and more on par with previous years, then 28 D-I signees is actually pretty good. Peck, however, doesn’t see it that way.
“I don’t think there was that big a difference in talent level,” said Peck. “I’ve put a lot of kids in college at all levels, and I think I have two kids that didn’t get D-I scholarships that I think are definitely D-I guys. They would be good players at Utah, Utah State or BYU. I truly believe it.”
Peck spent time on the phone this weekend with several out-of-state coaches encouraging them to make a late recruiting run at those kids.
BYU signed 12 in-state kids a year ago, but it’s only slated to sign three Wednesday. Several high school coaches said BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall told them he has fewer scholarships to offer because of the number of LDS missionaries returning this year, but Hamilton is still puzzled by what he perceives as very few in-state kids even getting offers.
Utah State is expected to sign six in-state kids, down significantly from 14 last year. Peck hopes that isn’t a trend after the way Gary Andersen recruited during his time in Logan.
“These colleges should realize that taking in-state kids is a great thing. You look at what Gary Anderson’s model was up there, bring in Utah kids and fill in with other kids,” said Peck.
Hamilton believes one of the biggest snubs involves Alta’s Baron Bruce. He said Bruce was definitely one of the best offensive linemen in the state, but he didn’t receive a single FBS offer and will sign with Weber State — he graduated early and is already enrolled.
If indeed Bruce was FBS-worthy, along with quite a few others who for whatever reason didn’t the offers, such “snubs” should benefit schools like Weber State, Southern Utah, Dixie State and Snow College immensely.
“Personally I don’t think it’s any different than the last five or six years. I really don’t,” said Hamilton. “The majority of your Division I signees traditionally have come from 10 high schools, and this year from those same 10 high schools you’re still seeing the same type of players but you’re not seeing kids signing from those schools.”
Instead, many of those kids are signing at the smaller in-state schools or exploring out-of-state options.
Division I-FBS recruits from the 2014 graduating class
Zac Dawe, Pleasant Grove (BYU)
Kavika Fonua, Syracuse (BYU)
Isaiah Kaufusi, Brighton (BYU)
Jackson Barton, Brighton (Utah)
Kyle Christiansen, Mtn. Crest (Utah)
Amone Finau, Kearns (Utah)
Allan Havili, Stansbury (Utah)
Thor Katoa, Pine View (Utah)
Howard Pututau, Cottonwood (Utah)
Pita Tonga, Highland (Utah)
Joe Tukuafu, East (Utah)
Khyiris Luavai, Granger (Utah)
Chase Christiansen, Stansbury (Utah State)
Preston Curtis, East (Utah State)
Ian Togiai, Hunter (Utah State)
Jonah Trinnaman, American Fork (Utah State)
Derek Hastings, Lehi (Utah State)
Baron Gajkowski, Lone Peak (Utah State)
Dalton Schultz, Bingham (Stanford)
Bryan Mone, Highland (Michigan)
Ula Tolutau, East (Wisconsin)
Korey Rush, East (Nevada)
Tennessee Su’e Su’e, East (Boise State)
Mack Richards, Alta (Hawaii)
Christian Shaver, Jordan (Colorado)
Sam Bennion, Logan (Colorado)
Isaiah Nacua, Timpview (TBD)
Kenyon Frison, Granger (TBD)
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