Whittingham Believes Utah’s Recruiting Success Is From Being In Pac-12

Dec 20, 2019, 2:15 PM
Kyle Whittingham - Utah vs. Arizona...
Utah Utes head coach Kyle Whittingham and players celebrate their 35-7 win over the Arizona Wildcats at Arizona Stadium in Tucson, Arizona on Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019. (Spenser Heaps, Deseret News)
(Spenser Heaps, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – After a successful early signing period for recruiting, the Utes have done a tremendous job of signing prospects from the state of Utah.

Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham believes that three things are a factor as to why they have done well in recruiting the 2020 class.

“Winning, being in the Pac-12 and our brand is growing,” Whittingham said. “We will finish up this year with a good ranking, we will see what happens in the bowl game. Going to the Pac-12 Championship game the last two years, there is a lot of reasons for it. Being in the Pac-12 and a power-five conference, also being a team that has been at the forefront of the College Football Playoff rankings towards the last part of the year, all of that adds up to more positive stuff in your recruiting.”

After signing three players that have four-stars next to their name, two of them are from the state of Utah, including Corner Canyon defensive end Van Fillinger and Juan Diego DE Xavier Carlton. The Utes signed five of the top six recruits from the state of Utah. The only player in the top six to not sign with Utah was Orem’s Noah Sewell, who signed with Oregon as the top prospect in the state.

“We have always placed the highest priority on the in-state athletes,” Whittingham said. “Every recruiting class starts with making sure that we properly evaluate inside the boundaries of our state. We do the best we can of keeping those guys home. It’s always a priority and it’s always a great effort on our part to make that happen. Doesn’t always happen.”

Not counting the return missionaries, Utah signed five players from the state of Utah. They have four players that they signed back in 2018 and are returning this year from serving a mission.

Whittingham went through each player from the state they signed and talked about what they will bring to his program.

Alex Harrison

“Big, strong and physical offensive lineman, had great offers, pretty much everyone in the Pac-12 wanted him among other schools in the country,” Whittingham stated. “Played both ways in high school, we are going to use him exclusively on the offensive line. He played every rep for his team in Bountiful. We think he is ready-made, he is 6’4 and 330-plus pounds and is a big, strong kid that is ready to show what he can do right away.”

Sione Fotu

“Tough kid,”Whittingham said. “He has great range, he isn’t the biggest guy at 6’0, 220 pounds, but he is physical, very instinctive and was very productive for Bingham this year, 90 tackles, couple of picks, so he has a lot of upside.”

Van Fillinger

“Another national recruit, could pretty much pick his spot,” Whittingham said. “He committed to another school (Texas) for a period of time and when he didn’t feel right about that, we were right there to try to get him to Utah and he fell in love with us the last part of the recruiting period.”

Jaren Kump

“Jaren Kump is coming off of a mission,” Whittingham said. “A couple of years ago we think he is a proto-typical offensive tackle. He is a 6’6, 270-pounds right now and when he gets back we will put weight on him. But, he has a huge frame and great length that you look for in your offensive tackle.”

Nate Ritchie

“Big get for us,” Whittingham declared. “With our safety situation, Nate is going to fill an immediate need. Another guy with multiple Pac-12 offers as well as other offers around the country. He already has size and runs very well.”

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