Posted by Bryan Fischer
There are few programs that can expect a windfall on the recruiting trial without doing much at all. Such is the case at Utah where, by virtue of moving from the Mountain West to the Pac-12, the school has already begun to get better recruits out of high school just by selling the fact that they are now in a BCS conference.
"College football is all about recruiting," Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham said. "80% of your success, or lack thereof, is tied directly to the athletes that you are able to get into your program. You obviously have to manage and develop those athletes once they get in your program but you have got to have the raw material. Being in a BCS conference now gives us a level playing field in that regard."
The Utes picked up several verbal commitments last year within days of the announcement that they were moving on to the so-called conference of champions. The program also beat out new division rival USC for running back Harvey Langi last year and are off to a very solid start with their class of 2012. Rival coaches have already remarked how much tougher it is on the recruiting trail with Utah fighting over some of the same players - just how Whittingham likes it.
"It's competitive, I'll tell you that," he said of recruiting this year. "That's something we anticipated and we didn't haves any surprises, we just knew that we're going to be battling with USC, UCLA, Cal, Stanford, Arizona, Arizona State and all of those schools for the top kids. It hasn't been anything we didn't expect."
There hasn't been a big change in how Utah goes about its business outside of a few coaches wearing polos with new logos though. Evaluation, especially during players' senior years, has been and will continue to be part of the Utes' secret to success.
"We evaluate hands on, our assistant coaches go out and beat the bushes," Whittingham said. "They watch film, they watch the kids practice, watch them in the weight room and all the things that the NCAA allows us to, we take advantage of. We don't rely on the Internet or recruiting services or anything like that. We've made a living on discovering that diamond in the rough.
"We've got a list as long as your arm of guys playing in the NFL on rosters right now that were not recruited or recruited very lightly."
Utah currently has nine commitments for the class of 2012 and is heavy (somewhat literally) with players on both sides of the line. An athlete such as in-state player Chase Hansen is a very good pickup for the school and he can end up at a number of spots on either offense or defense. Whittingham also added an Elite 11 quarterback this year in San Clemente (Calif.) signal-caller Travis Wilson.
In addition to being on the shortlist for a few top players, it wouldn't be surprising if the program picks up some recruits in this class that they'll eventually be able to add to that long list of NFL players. Not bad at all for switching conferences.