After the NCAA's national letter of intent day came and went Wednesday, it was apparent that the recruiting efforts of Utah's Big Four football schools were much the same as always.
There were no blue-chip recruits - no blue-chip aberrations a la Rocky Biegel or Scott Mitchell; there were a couple of near misses, and yet it was a solid, if unspectacular, recruiting effort, according to the coaches.There was one difference. Unlike recent years, Utah State and Utah had no emergency recruiting to perform. Both schools were able to recruit a variety of positions, because of the progress of their programs - that according to their coaches.
The closest thing to blue chip was probably a pair of junior college all-America linebackers - Howard Reeves of Dixie College and Lance Salley of Arizona Western - both bound for Utah.
Right up until signing day the Utes believed they would sign what they termed a certified blue-chip prep in William Henry, a California wide receiver, but they lost him to another passing school, Fresno State. That hurt, but, on the other hand, the Utes did the same thing to San Diego State. Steve Ruthenbeck, a 6-foot-4, 235-pound tight end from El Camino High in Sacramento, reportedly made a verbal commitment to San Diego State - and signed with Utah.
By Thursday morning, the instate recruiting picture became clearer. Here's the latest tally for the Utah schools, including Southern Utah State, which joined the NCAA last year:
- BYU signed 25 players, 11 of them linemen.
- Utah signed 25 players, 17 of them are preps.
- Utah State signed 26 players, including 22 preps - 11 of whom are from Utah.
- Weber State signed 22 players - 16 of them for the defense.
- Southern Utah State signed 20 players, including 12 Utah preps.
(See Scoreboard for complete recruiting lists.)
BYU sought linemen and that's just what the Cougars got - some for the future, some for immediate relief of heavy graduation losses. Of the five junior college players BYU signed, four are linemen. Among their top signees were were a pair of huge offensive tackles - Don Goodman, a 6-foot-8, 305-pounder from Cerritos Junior College, and Mike Jenkins, a 6-8, 347-pounder from Chabot JC. Both were heavily recruited.
BYU also signed Rich Kaufusi, a 6-foot-4, 265-pounder from Dixie College who is the younger brother of former BYU starter Steve, now a defensive end with the NFL Philadelphia Eagles.
The Cougars picked up another brother act, as well. They signed the wonderfully named T.D. Biegel, a standout running back from Wisconsin and the younger brother of Rocky Biegel, the blue-chip linebacker who signed with BYU last year.
As they have the past couple of years, the Cougars signed a handful of prep players from Texas - Jason Mathews, a 6-foot-6, 240-pound defensive end, and Rodney Townsend, a 6-3, 215-pound linebacker, both from Bridge City, and Derwin Gray, a 5-11, 180-pound defensive back from San Antonio.
"We've got a good mix between high school and junior colleges," said BYU coach LaVell Edwards. "We've had a couple of pretty good recruiting years in a row, and this was along that same line."
For their part, the Utes signed a mix of positions but leaned toward offensive linemen (6) and defensive backs (7). "We signed a few more defensive backs than we planned," said Utah coach Jim Fassel.
In the meantime, at Utah State, the Aggies recruited for speed and found it. They signed wide receivers Dearick Jackson of Fairfield, Calif., Alfred Brown of Mesa, Ariz., and running back Rick Woodford of Las Vegas - all freshmen and all fast. According to USU coach Chuck Shelton, Brown and Jackson "are both legitimate sub-4.4 runners. And Rick Woodford is the fastest kid in Nevada . . . This is the most quickness we've ever recruited."
As expected, the Aggies also signed two of Utah's top prep players - Todd Wilson, a 6-foot-3 quarterback from Logan and the state 3A MVP last season, and Jaceson Maughan, a 6-foot-4, 246-pound defensive lineman from Mountain Crest.
At Weber State, where offense has never been a problem but stopping one has, Coach Mike Price went to great lengths to shore up his defense. He went to Alaska to sign three prep linebackers - Derrick Gurley, Kevin McHenry and George Kelly, all from the Fairbanks area. "We made a clean sweep of Fairbanks, signing three of the top high school players in the state," said Price.
Assessing his recruiting efforts, Price said, "We got exactly what we wanted, lots of quality defensive players."
The Wildcats also signed a pair of prolific running backs from California - Gene Ethridge from Spring Valley, who rushed for 1,496 yards and 14 touchdowns last season, and Alex Lindert from Davis, who rushed for 1,002 yards and 19 TDs.
Southern Utah State stayed close to home to get most of its recruits. Not only did the Thunderbirds sign 12 Utah prep players, but three of them are from Cedar City.