Right or wrong, the overall quality of the state's recruiting class is often determined by who goes out of state, and where they go. With that in mind, the class of 2006 is definitely one of the best in recent memory.
It's not often a running back from Utah signs with the nation's premier collegiate team, a program that's churned out three of the last four Heisman Trophy winners, or that a Utah quarterback signs with a Big 12 club.
Coincidentally enough, those two kids are both from Cottonwood High School.
"This is a big thing for us. It's been an interesting recruiting process," said Cottonwood coach Tom Jones. "We've had so many coaches come through here looking at kids."
Stanley Havili and Alex Cate were the kids those coaches were courting the most. In a stunning, last-minute decision a few weeks ago, Havili pledged himself to USC coach Pete Carroll. Cate, having originally committed to LSU, opted out of that verbal commitment in the fall and is now enrolled at Oklahoma State.
"Stanley has tremendous potential," said Jones. "Going to the next level with USC, obviously he's going to have to step it up, and probably have to wait his turn."
During his junior and senior seasons, Havili racked up 3,250 rushing yards and 57 total touchdowns. Now he's following in the footsteps of Reggie Bush and LenDale White, USC runnings backs who've declared themselves eligible for the NFL draft, and who could both be top 10 picks.
Cate passed for 6,095 yards and 70 touchdowns over the past two years
"The big quality he has that will help him is reading defenses and making decision," said Jones. "There are quarterbacks out there that are bigger than he is and have stronger arms."
Beyond the Cottonwood duo, however, the majority of Utah's top high school seniors are all staying in state to play college football. Does that make the class of 2006 a down year?
A closer look at the numbers suggests that the '06 class is actually better than previous years.
Last year, BYU signed five in-state athletes on national signing day. Wednesday, BYU is expected to sign at least seven local athletes, including top recruits Mike Hague and James Lark. In 2004, the Cougars only signed three Utah athletes.
A year ago, the Utes only signed four local athletes, whereas this year coach Kyle Whittingham has already received seven verbal commitments, including one from outstanding lineman Zane Taylor. In 2004, the Utes also only signed four Utah prepsters.
Even Utah State, which didn't land a single in-state high school senior last year, has already received verbal commitments from two local athletes, including 2005 Mr. Football recipient Riley Nelson.
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