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Why Do Local Football Talent Leave Utah To Play Elsewhere?

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Orem High School wide receiver Puka Nacua announced his decision on KSL’s SportsBeat to go out of state to continue his football career at the University of Washington.

Not everyone was happy about that decision, or how he made the choice.

The four-star wide receiver came on local Salt Lake City television station, but then proceeded to announce he’s playing college football out of state.

One of those not too happy about the announcement was KSL’s Unrivaled co-host Scott Mitchell.

“Great. You go wherever you go,” Mitchell said of Nacua’s decision to be a Husky. “What I don’t like about this is that he came to KSL and announces it. Do it from your high school, do it from Washington or wherever you are going to be. You are kind of wasting our time.”

Nacua making the decision in Salt Lake City did allow easy access for friends, family, teammates and others to see where would continue his football career.

“If feels like a slap in the face to come up here and do it on television,” Mitchell added. “Just do it at Orem High School and have your own deal there.”

Nacua heading to Washington continues an alarming trend where the best high school football recruit in Utah has left the state to play college football.

Nowadays it is a shock if the highest regarded recruit stays in Utah. It has happened only once since 2012, and only five times since 2002.

“This aggravates me to no end that these players cannot see it. I am trying to make sense of it because I don’t understand it,” Mitchell said with some frustration. “If all of these top players don’t go away and stay [in Utah] could you imagine the team you’d have?”

Staying home has so many benefits than going off to somewhere else to play college football, and that is something that Mitchell has experience in as he stayed instate to play at the University of Utah.

“The fans appreciate you so much more when you go to where you’re from,” Mitchell said. “Think of Chase Hansen and Britain Covey at Utah, and think of Zach Wilson at BYU. These are local kids who stay.”

Co-host Alex Kirry said there was good reason as to why Nacua chose Washington over either Utah or BYU, and it had to do with the offenses of those schools.

“Playing at the Pac-12 champion University of Washington who throws the ball more and has a really, really good coach in Chris Petersen,” Kirry said. “That is an attractive thing.”

The Utes have not been known as a pass-heavy offense, and despite being considered a very early contender for the 2019 conference championship, the system that Kyle Whittingham has utilized for years has not favored wide receivers.

Over at BYU, the Cougars are just two years away from a 4-9 season, so it would take a lot for the best recruit in the state to go to a school that has had recent struggles.

All this means is that Utah, BYU and Utah State coaches need to do a better job of convincing local talent that staying home is the best move for their future.

Tune into KSL’s Unrivaled every Monday through Friday, 7-9 p.m., or download the KSL NewsRadio app to subscribe to the podcast.