Cooper Bateman saw his name on nearly every Southeastern Conference jersey, but it was only at Alabama that he saw himself wearing it.
The courtship of the player experts consider the most heavily recruited player in Utah history ended Wednesday when Bateman, the Cottonwood quarterback who received more than 50 offers, orally committed to the Crimson Tide. He selected Alabama over a final group that included Utah, Washington and Auburn.
“When we visited Alabama in April,” Bateman said, “the moment we drove onto campus I can honestly say I just had that feeling in my gut. I said I could really see myself being here, kind of a home away from home.”
Bateman, ranked No. 4 nationally among quarterbacks by Scout.com, said as a child he dreamed of going out of state to play college football on a national stage. Yet on Tuesday afternoon before he made his final decision, Bateman spent time with Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham and offensive coordinator Brian Johnson. He said he was just “getting my last feel for that campus and that coaching staff.”
Cottonwood offensive coordinator Scott Cate said representatives from 70 schools visited the high school.
“Every single day you have an LSU or an Auburn, half a dozen schools coming in,” Cate said.
Bateman visited seven schools, and at each of them coaches threw out varying recruiting tactics. Each university had a locker with a jersey bearing his name prominently displayed. Auburn sent him — and his mother — around campus with a set of attractive twin sisters.
“It was kind of weird,” he said, “but I guess that’s how they do it.”
He added: “Everyone, of course, tried to put on a show. If anything, Alabama did the least of that.”
Bateman’s commitment adds to the rising national profile of Utah prep football. Cate said Alabama coach Nick Saban once told him, “I had huge doubts when they told me to look at a kid from Utah.”
But Bateman was selected this week to the Elite 11, the premier quarterback camp that will air on ESPN. He also has been named to the roster for the 2013 Under Armour All-America game, and on Sept. 7, the Colts will host Skyline (Wash.) in an ESPN showcase game that features the No. 1-rated quarterback, Southern California commit Max Browne.
“He’s got the accolades that not a lot of people have ever had around here,” Cate said.
Brandon Huffman, a national recruiting analyst for Fox Sports, said Bateman is the most heavily recruited player to ever come out of Utah, including former Highland defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, the No. 2-ranked player in the Class of 2002.
Huffman said Alabama was a good fit for Bateman, given the Crimson Tide’s run of solid game managers, as opposed to game changers. Huffman called Bateman a “dynamic” pocket quarterback with a strong, accurate arm.
“Bateman can go in there and not be a manager of that offense but he can run that offense and Alabama can do a lot more stuff with him than they did with A.J. McCarron and [Greg] McElroy.”
Those two, of course, won national championships, which Alabama has a history of doing.
“What they’ve missed,” Huffman said, “is that elite quarterback.”
Cooper Bateman passing numbers
Year Comp Att Yds TDs Ints
2012 168 308 2484 25 5
2011 117 202 1822 23 6
Utah’s other top 2013 recruits
Lowell Lotulelei, DT, Bingham • Offers from BYU, Utah, Utah State, Oregon State, UCLA
Logan Stott, OG, Pine View • Committed to Arizona
Uaea Masina, RB/LB, Brighton • Offer from Utah
Siale Fakailoantonga, TE, Cottonwood • Soft verbal to Utah
Sean Barton, LB, Woods Cross • Offers from BYU, Utah, Utah State, Stanford, Arizona State, Boise State, Colorado and others
Talon Shumway, WR, Lone Peak • Committed to BYU
Utah’s previous top recruits
Haloti Ngata, Highland • The No. 2 overall player in the Class of 2002 signed with Oregon.
Alex Cate, Cottonwood • The eighth-rated quarterback in the Class of 2006 signed with Oklahoma State before ending his career at Central Washington.
Xavier Su’a-Filo, Timpview • The 6-foot-5 offensive guard was a ranked in the top five in his position before signing with UCLA.
Lynn Katoa, Cottonwood • The No. 3 linebacker in the Class of 2008 signed with Colorado.
Harvey Langi, Bingham • The best running back in state history entertained offers from numerous Pac-12 schools and drew interest from Florida before signing with Utah in 2011.