High school sports: Nearly 650 athletes taking talents to college on scholarship

Published: Thursday, June 19 2014 11:50 p.m. MDT

East High's Ula Tolutau stiff arms Olympus' Conner Haller as East High School defeats Olympus High School 47-21in the 4A State High School football semi-final Thursday, Nov. 14, 2013, in Salt Lake City.

Tom Smart, Deseret News

College coaches are never going to mistake Utah for the recruiting hotbed of places like California, Texas and Florida, but the Beehive State has carved out a respectable niche nationally.

Whether it’s football, soccer, volleyball or basketball, college coaches around the country have learned through the years that the best in Utah can play with the best anywhere.

Some choose to pursue that athletic dream at major programs across the country, while others prefer staying close to home. Regardless of where their career trajectory takes them, this year’s athletic scholarship recipients are among the lucky few who get to chase their dreams at the next level.

After contacting coaches and athletic directors from every high school in Utah, in addition to sports information departments at each of the in-state colleges, the Deseret News has compiled a list of the estimated 644 seniors from the 2014 graduating class who have received athletic and/or academic scholarships to play college athletics.

Of those 644 athletes, 267 signed with major universities. Of the bunch, 361 are staying in state, while 283 are heading out of state.

The payout isn’t huge for some — books might be their only compensation. For blue chippers like Lone Peak’s T.J. Haws, they’re getting a full ride.

Of the 644 recipients, 316 are boys while 328 are girls. A year ago, the boys received 18 more scholarships, but this year the girls are on top.

Bingham High led the way with 27 scholarship recipients, followed closely by Brighton with 26. Alta and Viewmont tied for third with 19. A total of 89 schools had student-athletes earn scholarships.

With participation numbers that dwarf all other sports, 118 of the boys’ 316 scholarships went to football players. Highlighting the crop of football players moving onto the next level are Bingham’s Dalton Schultz (Stanford), Brighton’s Jackson Barton (Utah) and East’s Ula Tolutau (Wisconsin).

“I think Dalton has as much upside as any kid that I’ve ever coached,” Bingham coach Dave Peck said. “I know that Stanford in particular feels like Dalton has a chance to come in and play right off.”

In all, roughly 5 percent of the estimated 2,332 seniors who played football last fall earned some form of scholarship, and 33 of the 118 are heading to FBS programs.

Of the three in-state FBS programs, Utah State led the way with nine signees — even though it was down from its 14 signees a year ago. Utah signed seven in-state seniors, with BYU inking four.

Weber State, led by new coach Jay Hill, signed the most in-state football recruits this year with 21.

“Getting players out of Utah is also a priority for us. We felt there was a really good class from Utah this year, and we were able to get a lot of them. We are very excited,” said Hill at his Signing Day press conference last February.

Overall participation numbers for the 2013-14 school year were provided by the Utah High School Activities Association. Senior estimates were calculated at 27 percent of the overall participation numbers.

Of the 10 sanctioned UHSAA boys’ sports, baseball had the highest percentage of seniors receive scholarships with 61 (6.8 percent).

Among the elite baseball players who received scholarships were Jordan’s Colton Shaver (BYU) and Cedar’s Kayden Lunt (BYU).

Boys soccer had the next highest percentage of scholarships with 5.6 percent, the second straight year 50-plus soccer players are moving onto the next level after only 28 did so in 2012. It’s an upward trend that won’t be going away anytime soon.

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