Utah isn't exactly a "must visit" stop on college coaches' recruiting itineraries, but more and more D-I players are coming out of the state as the population swells with families leaving California to live in a more affordable environment.
Also getting recruiters' attention is the fact that two of the top football-playing junior colleges, Snow and Dixie, are within the state's borders and put players at major programs such as Oklahoma and Arizona State.
In the past, colleges have been hesitant to go into the Mormon-dominated state, thinking that BYU and Utah had a monopoly on those players who could play at BCS schools, but the thinking has changed, thanks primarily to Oregon, which stole Haloti Ngata from BYU on Signing Day in 2002 and in the last few years has signed Utahns Mark Asper and Thor Pili (Class of '04), Victor Felipe (‘03) and Tarrell Richards (‘02).
This February, Oregon didn't ink a Utah player, but Kentucky from the SEC and Stanford from the Pac 10 did, all of which sets up what should be an interesting battle for one of the top RBs in the West, Stanley Havili of Cottonwood.
Havili is a relative unknown, ineligible to play varsity football his sophomore year after a transfer from another Salt Lake City school, East High. Making the most of his junior campaign, the 6-foot-1, 215 pound Havili exploded on the state scene as he rushed for 1,874 yards on 224 yards with 23 TDs, three more scores receiving and an eye-opening four TD's on kickoff returns‹impressive enough to earn 1st team All-State honors.
The junior¹s first offer was from BYU (he's a Latter-day Saint, the religion which sponsors BYU) with subsequent ones coming from Purdue and Vanderbilt. Being that BYU was the first to offer, the home state school and the one with religious ties, you'd think the Cougars would be high on the athlete's list but currently his top five are "Arizona, Stanford, Purdue, Texas Tech and Iowa."
Asked what are his primary factors in choosing a college, the rusher said, "conference and coaching," (BYU is in the non-BCS conference Mountain West and has a new head coach in Bronco Mendenhall) which has opened the race to other schools, particularly Iowa, where Havili's cousin, Anthony Moeaki from Illinois, signed in February.
Texas Tech adds intrigue to the recruiting picture because Stanley's brother Sione initially signed with BYU out of high school before ending up at Tech (he has since transferred to Weber State in Utah). BYU's new offensive coordinator, Robert Anae, just left Texas Tech where he was offensive line coach for the Holiday Bowl-winning Red Raiders.
So why are BCS schools east of the Mississippi crossing the Rockies to recruit Havili?
"He's got great body lean," says Colts' offensive coordinator Scott Cate, father of star QB Alex. "I've been told by at least 10 BCS schools that he could start for them right now.
"There are a ton of schools that have told me they want to offer, he just has to take the ACT and get a few core grades up. Stanley is a very smart kid and I think he has now realized the importance of an education if he wants to play at the next level."