How Kyle Whittingham Landed Eric Weddle Out Of High School

Mar 22, 2022, 1:44 PM

Eric Weddle - Utah Utes Football...

University of Utah's Eric Weddle in action against University of Tulsa during the Armed Forces Bowl played at Amon Carter Stadium in Ft Worth Texas on December 23, 2006. Utah won the game 25-13. (Photo by L. Scott Wambsganss/Getty Images)

(Photo by L. Scott Wambsganss/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY – When it comes to recruiting, Utah football and Kyle Whittingham are as good as it gets finding lower rated players and turning them into professionals.

Kyle Whittingham has never needed the five-star players to be successful and that goes back to his days as defensive coordinator when he landed Eric Weddle.

What was kind of hidden until recently was how Weddle landed at Utah that turned into him being an All-American and one of the best to ever play football for the Utes. During Super Bowl week, Weddle was asked about playing college football at Utah. That’s when he mentioned that Urban Meyer didn’t want to give Weddle a scholarship and that Whittingham had to go to bat for him.

“If it wasn’t for coach Whitt (Kyle Whittingham) believing in me, and having my back, really fighting for me,” Weddle said back in February. “Coach (Urban) Meyer didn’t really want to give me a scholarship at the time and coach went to bat for me and believed in me and envision me as somewhere on the defense and had a plan for me.”

KSL Sports caught up with Kyle Whittingham last week over the phone and talked about that process of getting Weddle to Utah.

How Kyle Whittingham Landed Eric Weddle Out Of High School

When Whittingham was asked about the comments Weddle made in the Super Bowl media availability, he chuckled for a second before diving into the process of landing Weddle.

“Well, in fairness, I was the one who was able to see him firsthand because when you just look at him, he looks like 1,000 other football players from Southern California, 5’11, 190 pounds, nothing special there,” Whittingham told KSL Sports. “But when you do a deep dive on the tape and watch him play and excel at so many different positions, he was a wideout, he was a running back, he was a quarterback, DB, returned kicks, punted. I mean, he did everything. He was also a four-sport guy, played football, basketball, track and baseball. So, there’s nothing he couldn’t do.

The pause for concern from Urban Meyer was the lack of offers that Weddle had coming out of high school.

“He was very lightly recruited,” Whittingham mentioned. “There was only a handful of schools on him. I kept asking his coach ‘What am I missing?’ What’s the deal here?’ He said, ‘You’re not missing anything. Everyone else is missing.’ So, that was concerning to Urban (Meyer) that he didn’t have any offers other than a few lower level schools. But fortunately, Urban trusted my judgment, trusted my evaluation and said, ‘Okay, let’s go and we took him in.’ I remember walking out of the home visit, and Urban looked at me said, ‘You sure?’ Because again, in person, he doesn’t look like an imposing or an intimidating specimen that even though he’s in great shape, he just looked like a bunch of other guys down in Southern California. Urban fortunately trusted my call on that one and he turned out to be pretty good.”

Recruiting is a different aspect of football that can either make or break a program. Without good coaching with focus on player development, mixed with great relationships and landing good recruits, most football programs without any of those traits on their staff is a recipe for disaster. Whittingham going to bat for Weddle obviously worked out as he went on to have a 12-year NFL career that ended with a Super Bowl ring.

“Recruiting is not an exact science,” said Whittingham. “I mean, you miss on plenty of players. You wouldn’t recruit them if you didn’t think they were going to be good. They obviously all don’t work out to be great players. But in that instance, and in that isolated case, it worked out for us.”

Trevor Allen is a Utah Utes Insider for KSLSports.com and host of the Crimson Corner podcast. Follow him on Twitter: @TrevorASports.

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How Kyle Whittingham Landed Eric Weddle Out Of High School