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Utah’s challenge has been to alter its recruiting emphasis, without isolating the local talent. The last thing the Utes want is to build a reputation of a program that looks elsewhere first and at Utah players last — especially with the state’s growing reputation as a producer of Division I football talent.
To that end, Utah recruiting coordinator Morgan Scalley is careful to describe the school’s recruiting philosophy.
Utah, BYU recruiting rankings
Utah 68 71
BYU 57 60
Utah 44 54
BYU 70 63
Utah 28 33
BYU 61 60
Utah 37 39
BYU 62 66
Utah 32 50
BYU 40 22
Note: 2014 classes are incomplete; rankings reflect commitments to date.
Utah at BYUSaturday, 8:15 p.m.
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"Utah is always a priority for us and we still want to go after the top LDS kids too," he said. "But we also have to compete with the Pac-12, with UCLA, USC and the others."
So far Utah has held true to its word. The Utes had 10 signees from Utah in 2012, and three in 2013. For their 2014 recruiting class, the Utes have commitments from six local players.
The Utes’ affiliation with the Pac-12 is as good of a sell in-state as it is elsewhere, Brighton High coach Ryan Bullett said.
"I think the Pac-12 is what Utah has over BYU right now," he said. "The kids are always talking about who Utah is playing. We have three commits to Utah in the last three years with more to come. The kids talk to me about being in a conference and getting awards and conference titles."
Utah is making its national push, too, as witnessed with recent recruiting visits with five players from Miami in town for the Oregon State game. They came, said cornerback Nigel Bethel II, out of curiosity and the prospect of playing with a program that has Erickson involved.
Bethel has committed to Miami, but just the fact he flew to Salt Lake City for a visit is taken as a positive sign for the Utes.
"Utah has definitely made major strides in the past couple of years, which coincides well with their move to the Pac-12 and being more visible on the West Coast," said Scout.com’s Huffman. "Travis Wilson was a player with Pac-12 offers and Utah hadn’t even played a game in the conference when he committed, largely because he liked Norm Chow and because the Utes were finally in the conference, guaranteeing a visit every year to Southern California."
The Utes believe their efforts are paying off. They have elevated their speed and talent at critical positions, even though they still have a long ways to go to get the necessary depth.
So, which approach is best? The lure of a major conference affiliation or religious connections?
It’s a question probably best answered on the field, on Saturday. And for seasons to come.
Reporter Jay Drew contributed to this story
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