There is optimism up on the hill as National Signing Day has come to an end and #UteGang2017 have been officially signed, sealed and delivered. The Utes picked up 19 total new players- 13 high school kids and 5 Junior College transfers. Overall coach Whittingham is pleased with the effort of his staff and the talent they were able to bring in.
“Like everyone else in American we really feel like we helped ourselves with this class,” Whittingham said. “The two real focal points I guess you could say-the main objectives were to rebuild the secondary. We lost a big- about 90% of our secondary losing four corners and Marcus Williams coming out early so that was obviously a point of emphasis. Both sides of the line of scrimmage were our next focus of concentration. We really helped ourselves there and to get a solid class across the board in addition to that- we really feel like we got some difference makers in this class.”
Utah signed a diverse group of guys spanning across the country; six players from California, 4 in Texas, 3 from Utah (although the number is a little deceptive since Julian Blackmon, Bapa Falemaka (both of whom were push forwards last year) and Chayden Johnston (return missionary) count in this class as well), 3 in Hawaii, and one a piece from Arizona, Florida and Ohio.
“Instate is a little misleading. To me the best barometer to measure instate production is how many of the 25 initials you used on instate players in a given year,” Whittingham said. “Rather than talk about them and they go on missions and then talk about them when they get back the best way to determine them is by the 25 initials you use. This year we had six and we feel like that is a good representation of players out of the 25 initials we feel is a solid group of guys. There weren’t quite as many prospects instate this year as last year but we feel like we came away with guys who will really help us.”
Although it was a concern to many fans early on, Whittingham says Utah decided to be a lot more patient in who they took commitments from this year waiting for the guys they really wanted. While there are risks to that method it ultimately worked in the Utes’ favor having signed their highest ranked class ever (#33 according to Scout rankings with a 3.3 star average that included six 4 star athletes).
“It was methodical, measured approach instead of worrying about commits we just wanted to make sure we came away with the exact guys that we want to,” Whittingham explained of Utah’s process. “We feel like we came away with a really good class this way. I guess it’s risky if you loose some guys at the end you could be short handed but we felt this approach we took this year was the right approach for us and it’s something we are going to subscribe to going forward.”
Despite having one of the most successful recruiting classes ever Whittingham admitted the Utes didn’t get everyone they wanted but followed up that no school ever does. “You’re never going to get everybody,” he said. “Nobody does. SC doesn’t get everybody in SoCal, UCLA doesn’t, Arizona State doesn’t get everyone there, Arizona- I mean that’s just the way it goes. We feel like the players we targeted we got most of them, not all of them. We feel like we came away with a good group.”
Whittingham says the change at the offensive coordinator position with the hiring of Troy Taylor really helped Utah’s case later on with the wide receiver position group and it’s a trend he expects to grow as Taylor starts to implement his offense over the years. “Last year he had three guys at Eastern Washington that went over a thousand yards,” he said. “That’s a selling point for receivers and we feel going forward it’s going to be a bigger deal once he’s able to do the same thing here and get the same results. It’s going to be a snowball effect.”
The Utes hope the momentum they have experienced the last three recruiting classes will continue now that the 2017 class has come to a close and sights get set towards the season and the 2018 kids. They are already off to a great start with the commitment of four star 2018 quarterback Jack Tuttle. Up next Utah will kick off Spring Ball on March 9th where fans can get a sneak peak of Taylor’s new offense and some of the new recruits.