Whittingham on the class

The Utes announced their 2007 recruiting class on Wednesday and head coach Kyle Whittingham seemed very pleased with the recruiting haul.

Opening Statement
"No surprises today, good or bad. Signing went as we anticipated. We feel it is a solid class - the third solid class in a row, since we took over. We feel like back-to-back-to-back we've had very solid, athletic recruiting classes.

"We hit five states, primarily, this year, the biggest being California. We took a dozen players out of California. Texas, we took five players. In state, we took four. But there's a little asterisk by that. We had four players in-state in this recruiting class. But we awarded five other in-state players (with scholarships) who were walk-ons. So, nine in-state players got awarded scholarships this year. That really is the bottom line when you're talking in-state, is how many you have on your roster that are on scholarship.

"We made a concerted effort to recruit the state of Texas. We think it paid dividends this year. We put two coaches in there full time for the first time ever. Last year, we had one guy there full time and another that split time between there and California. This year, it was Texas for both those guys. We were able to pull five guys out of Texas. I would like to see our roster have about 20-25 guys from Texas at any given time. We're getting close to that. If we can get four to six a year, that will get us right where we want to be in that respect. The other states represented were Nevada and Hawaii with two each. Hawaii has been good to us for a lot of years. We keep that pipeline open and we feel like we got two good players out of the State of Hawaii this year.

"Overall, it was a real defensive emphasis this year. We were harder hit on the defensive side of the ball than offensively. In fact, offensively, we really only lose one starter from last year. The skill positions on defense in particular is where we were emphasizing -- the defensive backfield. We signed eight defensive backs. We think a few of them will be able to help right away, some of the junior college transfers.

"The blend of JC and high school is about what it usually is. We took 18 high school and seven JC. But three of those junior college players are sophomores in eligibility. That's about the blend we have - about three or four to one. That's typical of our recruiting classes.

"Our recruiting philosophy has not changed. You have to fill your needs. But you have to take the best players available. The players with the most raw material, or the highest ceiling, is how we look at it. We're looking for the guys that have the raw ability to become great players. They may not be playing the position in high school or junior college we're projecting them at. That's another thing we're very willing to do is recruit raw ability, then move those guys around and find a home for them. That's our philosophy. Rather than fill up the positions with the numbers. We take the best football players we can get and then find spots for them. That's really what college football is all about - recruit and develop. That's how you build a winning program. You recruit properly and you develop those guys you recruit. It is as simple as that.

"Recruiting for us - or any Mountain West school - is evaluation. You've got to be great evaluators. The 6-6, 310-pound, ready-made, blue-chip guys are easy to spot. Everybody wants those guys. USC, Notre Dame, Texas go after those guys and really get most of them. What we've got to do is go after the guys - Luther Elliss, Alex Smith - the guys that nobody is recruiting. Steve Fifita - I recruited Steve Fifita out of southern California and we were the only offer he had. Eric Weddle had just a couple smaller schools. That's how we've made our living, is hopefully we're pretty good evaluators. Jordan Gross is another guy in that same mold. It was University of Utah and I don't know if anyone else was in on Jordan. So those guys paid huge dividends, obviously.

"Time will tell how this recruiting class will pan out. I can sit here and talk about the class from two years ago at length and tell you exactly where we are and what that class turned out to be. But on paper, obviously, we feel good. I challenge you to find any Division I coach in the country who won't say the same thing. Everybody's pleased with their class and has high expectations and is excited about getting those guys to campus. We feel good about what we've got.

"We've made a commitment, since I've been here as the head coach, to the in-state player. I know we took more in-state guys last year - at least on signing day, than this year. But we did target four guys and we got those four guys. The running back from Snow College, Matt Asiata, we think is going to be an impact guy for us. Griff Robles, the quarterback down at Spanish Fork, will go on a mission prior to enrollment, so we will not get him until 2009. Mike Honeycutt's in the same boat, a defensive back from down in the Lone Peak area. Along with James Aiono, a defensive lineman from Murray, we feel that we've done a nice job. We will always look first and foremost in state. That's our priority and then we'll expand from there. We feel good about what we got. That brings our in-state total to 20 scholarship players out of 76, with what we've got projected for the fall. We have 32 walk-ons in state, six in-state guys on missions. So, in this football program, we have 58 guys from the state of Utah. So the state of Utah is well-represented."

On Impact Players for the 2007 Season
"In addition to Matt (Asiata), the secondary guys. We took a hard hit back there with Eric Weddle, Casey Evans, Eric Shyne and Shaun Harper, losing all those guys. The majority of our JC recruits were in the defensive secondary. Damilyn Tanner, from El Camino Junior College down in southern California, and Josh Broughton - those are two JC corners that we're going to rely on to come in and contribute. At the safety position, as well, DeShawn Richard, who is here now on campus will be with us in spring ball, and Robert Johnson, from LA Southwest. He is actually a sophomore in eligibility. Then, Koa Misi is here now and enrolled. He is a Santa Rosa Junior College player, who is also a sophomore. Typically, when you look at the track record, it will tell you junior college players make an impact sooner than high school players. They're older, they're more mature. So, that's no great secret or something unique to Utah. There are a few freshmen every year. I can't tell you who that will be. Time will tell. They just pop up, like the next Eric Weddle. Hopefully we have a couple of those in this class."

On Matt Asiata
"We recruited him to run the ball. We've got Darryl Poston coming back, who I felt got better and better as the season went on last year. But we really lacked that punishing, between-the-tackles runner, who will lower his pads and get those tough yards. We think Matt Asiata is going to help us with that."

On Recruits De-Committing
"You have that every year. There were very few of those guys, this year. I think there were two that did that this year. You take that into the occasion when you sign guys. As you get your commitments, odds are one or two are going to have a change of heart."

On Dealing With Recruits As Signing Day Nears
"After you've got the commitment, that's when the work begins. We see them as much as the NCAA will allow, which is six times during the contact period. We call them. By the time you get to January, it is a daily phone call. You stay real close to them, because you don't want anyone to move into your territory. It's like having a girlfriend. You don't want anybody moving in on your girlfriend, so you snuggle right up to her. That's the same thing we do with these players."

On In-State Battles With Other Schools
"To have a battle, other schools would have to offer. We went after four guys and we got the four guys we targeted. We would have loved to have a few others. But in order to have a true outcome, there has to be two schools vying for the same player. I think maybe we had a different list we were working off of, as far as guys we targeted. I guess there are a lot of different ways to look at it. We feel real good about the four guys we got. In order to have lost a guy, you would have had to offer him and recruited him."

On Any Negative Impact of the MWC TV Deal in Recruiting
"Not really. We got a lot of positive feedback from our bowl game. We were on national TV for the bowl game. I can't tell you we felt any complaints or lack of getting into doors or homes than any other years."

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