Utah continues to make in-state recruiting a top priority

Published: Saturday, Oct. 10 2015 8:51 a.m. MDT

University of Utah football players celebrate with fans after defeating Utah State in NCAA football in Salt Lake City, Thursday, Aug. 29, 2013. (Ravell Call, Deseret News) University of Utah football players celebrate with fans after defeating Utah State in NCAA football in Salt Lake City, Thursday, Aug. 29, 2013. (Ravell Call, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — Since becoming coach at Utah in 2005, Utah coach Kyle Whittingham has not only increased the number of Utah players on the roster, but also the number from Utah County, the home of this week’s opponent, BYU.

The Utes have 49 Utahns on the roster, up from the 35 in 2005, and 15 hail from Utah County, more than twice as many as when Whittingham started. The coach doesn’t say there is a concerted effort to draw players from Utah County, but he said Utah, California and Texas continue to be the “footprint” of the Utes’ recruiting.

Among the players from Utah County are starting linebacker Jason Whittingham (Provo), starting tight end Jake Murphy (American Fork), Issac Asiata (Spanish Fork), a backup offensive lineman who started against Weber State, and Quade Chappuis (Alpine), a backup linebacker who has played a lot at safety for the Utes over the past two years.

Another is special teams standout Mike Honeycutt, who played at Lone Peak

“I didn’t really grow up watching Utah or BYU, but I liked Utah’s program way better,’’ he said of his decision to come north.

DEFENSIVE STRUGGLES: After some defensive struggles in two of the first three games, coach Whittingham says he has confidence in his defensive staff and doesn’t plan to get more involved as the former defensive coordinator.

“I believe in the defensive staff — Kalani Sitake’s done a great job for us for a number of years,’’ Whittingham said. “We look at personnel changes every week, that’s always been the case.’’

Whittingham praised Oregon State quarterback Sean Mannion for “throwing dimes in there, right on the money,’’ but also said the Utes only played the fade correctly once out of five or six tries and that was a big difference in the outcome.

On the year, the Utes rank 14th in the country in rushing defense, 104th in pass efficiency defense and 69th in total defense

POOLE UNSEATS YORK: Because the Utes won’t discuss injuries after the beginning of the season, there has been some uncertainty about the status of running back Kelvin York and whether an injury has been keeping him from playing. York suited up for the Oregon State game, but didn’t get in the game.

At Monday’s press conference, coach Whittingham indicated it’s a matter of Bubba Poole playing better than York.

“He has unseated Kelvin right now and he’s the lead guy,’’ Whittingham said of Poole. “For his inexperience in the program, Bubba is giving us very good production running the football and catching a couple of passes.’’

Poole finished with 117 yards rushing on 25 carries and caught more than a couple of passes with seven receptions for 70 yards as the Utes’ leading receiver.

QUOTEABLE: When asked about BYU becoming known for its defense unlike 30 years ago when he played at BYU, Whittingham said, “We were a defensive school then, you just didn’t know it. Talk to LaVell (Edwards), and he’d be the first one to tell you that.’’

UTE NOTES: Utah is tied for eighth in the nation in scoring offense at 49.3 points per game. … Travis Wilson ranks in the top 10 in the nation in points responsible for (third) and in pass yards per completion (seventh). … In 12 tries inside the red zone this season, the Utes have scored eight touchdowns and kicked four field goals.

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