Chances are that come Wednesday, only a handful of Utah high school players will sign national letters-of-intent to join NCAA Division I football teams.
Meanwhile, more players will be left available for smaller college programs like Weber State and Southern Utah State College, while area junior colleges will take several additional days before concluding their recruiting efforts in typical wait-and-see fashion.Why the relatively few numbers of local prepsters receiving full-ride offers from Utah's universities? Several reasons have been suggested:
- Quality but not quantity. "The athletes are as good, but there are not as many as in previous years," said Weber State recruiting coordinator Larry Lewis.
- Not making the grades. Proposition 48 and its restrictions are making major-college programs more cautious while establishing the JCs as an alternative for athletes needing to enhance their academics.
- The numbers game. While Utah's large-size schools - 50 4A and 3A schools - are spread out from Logan to St. George, college recruiters can find just as many schools in one-stop locales such as Dallas, Denver and Orange County.
- Few noticeable-name players. The consensus among local college recruiters is that the top-name talent is down this year, with Utah lacking a noticeable "name" player like Scott Mitchell, Bryce Doman, or Sean Covey. "There just hasn't been any impact player in the state," said BYU recruiting coordinator Chris Pella.
University of Utah counterpart Craig Versteg agrees. "Maybe one doesn't stand out as much this year," he said, though he noted that "the quality hasn't dipped at all."
While college coaches are prohibited by NCAA rules from commenting on their recruiting campaigns or about individual high school players until national signing day, the prepsters and their coaches are able to announce verbal commitments being made and collegiate offers being extended.
According to USU recruiting coordinator Stan Eggen, the Aggies may benefit from Chuck Shelton's staff reaping the rewards of establishing rapport after two-plus years. "This may be as good or as thorough a job as we've had in our three years," Eggen said.
Two of the Aggie recruits will come from close to home in Logan quarterback Todd Wilson and Mountain Crest lineman Jaceson Maughan.
Wilson finished the fall of '88 with 2,373 yards passing and 24 aerial TDs in his first year as a varsity starter. In leading the Grizzlies to the 3A crown, the 6-3 senior completed 16 of 21 attempts for 420 yards and no interceptions. Wilson chose Utah State when BYU reportedly suggested a JC route first and when Utah cooled after showing considerable interest early.
Maughan is a 6-6, 245-pound 3A all-stater who ignored all out-of-state interests and announced only last week that he was selecting Utah State over BYU.
Another committed recruit is San Juan speedster Jimmy Ray, whose chores last fall included playing receiver, tailback, defensive back and return specialist for the 2A semifinalist Broncos.
Also reported to have made verbal commitments to attend USU are linemen Theran Selph of Olympus and Travis Wood of Roy. Sky View running back Ryan Larsen - an all-stater for the 3A finalist Bobcats a year ago - is still considered a possibility, while Mountain Crest lineman Jerry Bargsley is said to have some partial-aid possibilities with the Aggies.
The Utes' biggest name in in-state recruits is expected to be Orem quarterback-defensive back-return specialist Bryan Rowley, who is projected as a receiver-returner. The only returning starter from the Tigers' '87 4A championship team, Rowley took over at QB in '88 to lead his team back to the finals and earn all-state honors.
Jeff Jex is a name that most Wasatch Front folks might not recognize. He's a 6-4, 220-pounder from tiny Rich High in Randolph, and he's made a verbal commitment to attend the U. His size and speed - 4.6 in the 40 - helps make him a projected fullback for the Utes.
Utah is said to have also shown interest in Tooele receiver Byron Lawrence, who is also interested in basketball. Emery's 6-6, 220-pound lineman Nathan Spencer is U.-bound; however, his scholarship will reportedly start next winter, allowing him to hit the weights before a possible LDS mission.
As reported earlier in the Deseret News, Alta running back Chad Knowles - the state's 4A MVP last fall - and Bonneville's all-state wide-out Jason Cooper have committed to the Cougars.
Tooele's 6-3, 220-pound lineman David Vorwaller - who was a USA Today honorable mention all-American and who received Utah's lineman of the year honors in a national listing compiled by the Touchdown Club of Atlanta and Days Inns - was still receiving attention from BYU as of late last weekend, but he might miss out because of the Cougars' shortage of available scholarships this year.
Only a couple of names have surfaced as far as out-of-state collegiate offers. Judge Memorial quarterback-safety Rob Sonne is drawing interest from the Ivy League and the likes of Harvard, Dartmouth and Columbia, while Woods Cross' 270-pound lineman Donavon Anderson is said to be bound for Texas-El Paso.
WEBER STATE, SUSC
Understandably, Weber State and SUSC do some of the best recruiting in the first few days after national letter-of-intent day. "In the past, we've made a killing on the kids that are left over," said Lewis. "If on Wednesday they aren't going to sign (with a Division I school), then they are going to be open for us."
The same is true for SUSC, which like Weber was treating potential recruits to on-campus visits as late as last weekend. Both schools are out trying to line up recruits for Wednesday's signings - and keeping an eye out for which players might still be available after Division I schools have completed their recruiting.
That means players such as linemen Brandon Lundeen of Murray, Kirk Boyer of Springville, and Davis' pair of Doug Beard and Fred Bartley could easily still be available for either the Wildcats and T-birds. Also available might be Layton's defensive twosome of N'Gai Steverson and Derrick Stapely, Bingham linebacker Shane Fisher, or smaller-school standouts such as Richfield tight end Kelly Ross and Kanab kicker Alan Boardman.
This could be a year for the area junior colleges to clean-up on quality players, with the major-college programs skimming only the surface of the talent pool. And the same players seemingly relegated to the junior-college level could easilty benefit from a couple of seasons of playing, training and development with teams such as Dixie, Ricks and Snow. Perhaps two or three years down the road, some of those same JC-bound players could again be involved in letter-of-intent signings, this time with a major-college team.
Like Snow and Weber, the JCs will do double duty in recruiting - making their own initial offers to certain players and watching for those still unsigned after Wednesday. Quite often, the junior-college signees aren't announced until several days after the major-college signings.
A couple of JC possibilities to note: Dixie College has reportedly offered scholarships to a half-dozen members of the 4A championship Alta team, while Snow College could wind up with nearly as many from the 3A champion Logan squad. The latter is attributed in part to Snow assistant Chico Canales having coached a number of the Grizzly players as grade-school gridders back when he was at Utah State.