In the midst of a day of new additions to the University of Utah football team, head coach Kyle Whittingham is pleased with who ended up submitting their national letters of intent to compete for the Utah Utes.
Although the team was unable to sign every player it sought after — Whittingham argues that every team in the country does not end up signing everyone they want — he is happy with how the day turned out.
“Like everyone else in America, we feel like we really helped ourselves with this class,” Whittingham said. “Two real focal points were to rebuild the secondary — about 90 percent of our secondary [left], and both sides of the line of scrimmage was next. We really feel like we got some difference makers in this class.”
One name not on the list of signees is Cooper Bateman. The transfer from Alabama is enrolled at the U, and he will be walking on for the team in the spring. Whittingham anticipates him receiving some time at the quarterback position, but nothing has been set in stone this early before spring football kicks back up.
However, Whittingham is excited what Bateman can bring to the team, and he hopes to find some place for him on the squad regardless of whether or not he earns the starting quarterback position.
“He’s a terrific athlete, he can run, and he’ll get some turns at quarterback at least in practice,” Whittingham said. “We’ll see where he is in relation to the other two, but we feel like he’s going to be on the field for us somewhere.”
Overall, the Utes ended up signing 19 new faces from seven different states. Those seven states include California, Texas, Hawaii, Utah, Arizona, Florida and Ohio.
The Utes did not pick up as many players from Florida as compared to this past season — this year they only signed one player from the Sunshine State. However, they got their footing back in Hawaii after signing three players from the Aloha State. While the Utes signed just three players from its home state of Utah, Whittingham thinks they sit just fine in terms of local recruitment.
In fact, Whittingham suggests recruiting locally has gotten somewhat easier with the more success the team finds on the field, and he isn’t worried about those numbers.
Also not included on this year’s list of signees is the number of return missionaries who will enter the fold this year. And Whittingham expects at least two, maybe three recruits to serve their own missions for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, so they won’t be putting on a Utah uniform just yet.
Other players could possibly pop up down the road, but all in all, Whittingham is excited to get to work with this new arsenal of players.
“We feel like we’ll be just as formidable as ever going forward,” Whittingham said.
Looking ahead, some of these signees will be featured in the 2017 spring football session. Spring football kicks off on March 9, and the Red-White Spring Game will be played on April 15 at 11 a.m. at Rice-Eccles Stadium.