The Ultimate Co-Signer: Whittingham Rakes In Recruits for 2010

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The Ultimate Co-Signer: Whittingham Rakes In Recruits for 2010

The University of Utah sees itself as a top-notch institution. 

That credence trickles down onto everything from the business school and bleeds into every facet imaginable.

The football program is a different beast.

It knows what it wants, what it needs, and it goes from 0-to-60 in a matter of seconds to get it.

2010 will be a year the Utes welcome Big East powerhouse Pitt and make the historic pilgrimage to South Bend, Ind., to square off against newly-appointed Irish head coach Brian Kelly and Notre Dame.

2010 will also be a year that Utah welcomes in possibly its best recruiting class to date.

As they always do, the program that incessantly takes high aim did exactly that once again.

The way coach Kyle Whittingham sees it, no reason why he shouldn't sell his university to those he sees as a potential building block.

Even if he's going up against Lane Donald Rumsfeld Kiffin or a slew of SEC powers.

"It's big," said Whittingham in his press conference discussing his upcoming class. "Not only USC, but Oklahoma, Tennessee, a list of as long as your arm of very good offers."

That big issue Whittingham speaks of is John Cullen. The top rated JC offensive lineman out of Fullerton Community College, who decided to accept an offer from the Utes, spurning a long line of prominent national programs.

Standing at 6'6", 270 punds, Cullen told The Salt Lake Tribune that he decided to make the trek to the U because he felt like it was a place he could win. 

And win big

Cullen mentioned returning to a BCS game and used an assertive tone that left no room for potential interpretation.

The kid knows his new school is going to make some national banter as they tend to do so every season.

Whittingham has realized that such exposure nationally over the past few years has been an obvious aid in selling the program to kids that aren't typically familiar with the Mountain West Conference stalwart.

"We're obviously not going to be able to win all those battles, but to be able to get a guy like John Cullen, when he had the national attention and the offers he was getting, says a lot about where we are as a program."

As Cullen was one of the big targets throughout signing day, the Utes missed out on a couple impactful targets. 

Local product, Ricky Heimuli of Brighton high school signed a letter of intent with Oregon, while speedy wideout Avery Williams out of Washington D.C. inked with West Virginia. 

The early morning disappointments lasted a few minutes. 

Then, Utah cleaned up. All across the board. 

A versatile running back out of southern California, Lucky Radley chose the Utes over North Carolina and Texas Tech.

Then came V.J. Fehoko, one of the top prospects out of Hawaii. Fehoko, a linebacker had narrowed his choices down to staying close to home at the University of Hawaii (where his father is the school's mascot, Vili the Warrior) or heading to Salt Lake. 

Fehoko chose to don crimson red first. Then Cullen. Then Radley. 

And, just like that, Utah's 2010 signing day kept itself rolling right along. 

Utah addressed holes that were pretty glaring with ease and potential. 

The receiving corps has taken a serious hit the last couple seasons due to graduation, so in came a trio of wideouts who are expected to make a difference right off the bat.

Dres Anderson, a 6'1", wideout from Riverside, Calif., Kenneth Scott, a 6'3", 200 pound receiver from Fontana, Calif., and most notably, Terrell Reese, who spurned a last-ditch run by Texas A&M to ink with the Utes. 

Reese hails from Chappell Hils, Texas (about an hour out of Houston) and looks to be a key component for the future of the Utah offense. 

"(The new freshman trio of receivers) have a chance to make an impact," Whittingham said. "We want to get the best 11 on the field."

The state of Texas has been a bloodline for the Utah program for more than a decade and the 2010 class made good on that. 

Eight recruits hail from Texas, eight from California, eight from Utah, and Fehoko being the lone Hawaiian in this group.

Two of those eight Utahns to sign with the Utes are two high-motor athletes who are expected to make a difference.

Ironically, both come from Utah county. Known to some: enemy territory.

Joe Kruger, younger brother of Paul and Dave Kruger, out of Pleasant Grove high school continued on the family tradition by signing on to play for Utah.

The youngest Kruger stands at a towering 6'7", weighing in at 250 pounds and will be undoubtedly suited perfectly to take over where older brother Paul did at the defensive end position. 

The other newbie being linebacker Ofa Latu, a linebacker from Timpview high school. Latu was named 4A Player of the Year by the Deseret News and will be one of a few players to serve a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints before he enrolls in school.

Sticking true to his guns, Whittingham and his staff have assembled another class of pure versatility. 

It's no secret. The Utes staff recruits speed, speed, speed, and more speed. Oh, and athleticism. 

Everything else? That can be taught by the crew of stellar coaches at the U. 

Not surprisingly, Utah has been known to recruit a position player and end up pitting them in different positions that they were recruited in. 

Whittingham knows the drill, and he knows that'll be another probable case with this group.

"They're all going to start where we recruited them," he said. "We have a fairly good record of telling guys that we think they fit somewhere else where they can flourish. We've had quite a few guys make good transitions."

More than a few? Yes.

NFL'ers Sean Smith, Eric Weddle, and the aforementioned Paul Kruger. Fairly good transitions, I'd say.

A move that may have left some fans scratching heads, was the fact that the Utes inked two quarterbacks. Two good athletic quarterbacks. 

Jordan Wynn, you say?

With Terrance Cain approaching graduation next year, Whittingham and Co., felt like they needed to add to melting pot. 

So, in comes Brian Blechen, a 6'2", 200 pound quarterback out of Moorpark, Calif. In comes in Tyler Shreve, a 6'3", 218 pound quarterback from Highland, Calif.

Both tremendous athletes with tremendous size and strength. 

To be quaint, they're not hauling around 160 pounds like Wynn was when he first arrived at the U a year ago.

So with Blechen and Shreve, Utah now seems to have a plethora of athletic quarterbacks to their disposal. 

Yes, but both, yes both are very good baseball players and have the potential to be drafted in the higher rounds. 

The coaching staff saw the risk in both of these guys, but decided that they'd rather take the educated risk. 

Ideally, Whittingham sees Blechen as an amazing athlete. There could be a position switch later on down the line for the likes of Blechen and redshirt quarterback Griff Robles who possesses tremendous size and athleticism.

"If we have an athlete at one position who could help us be better at another position, we have to make a move rather than stacking talent up at one position," Whittingham said. 

Shreve could prove to be a major steal, not to mention a major sleeper. His arm strength and accuracy is superb. 

Just another year, another behind-the-curtains job by Whittingham and his staff. They don't get the absurd ESPN attention such as the likes of USC, Florida, UCLA, etc., but on a consistent basis, the job is done—in a more-than-impressive fashion.

Utah's feeling the aftershocks of the Sugar Bowl triumph a year ago and with a bowl streak now sitting at nine, in comes the guys no one really knows about nationally and expect most of them to make names for themselves, because after all, that's all that happens as of late on the hill.

"Every year it seems to fall into place," said the always-confident Whittingham.

That's big and on more than one level. 

 

COMPLETE LIST OF UTAH'S 2010 RECRUITING CLASS

 

James Aiono—DL, 6-4, 305—Jr. JC West Valley City, Utah/Snow College 

Dres Anderson—WR, 6-1, 157—Fr. HS Riverside, Calif./JW North HS 

Brian Blechen—QB, 6-2, 203—Fr. HS Moorpark, Calif./Moorpark HS 

Zach Bolton—OL, 6-2, 271—Fr. HS Houston, Texas/Klein Forest HS 

Princeton Collins—RB, 5-11, 198—Fr. HS Austin, Texas/Westwood HS 

John Cullen—OL, 6-5, 270—Jr. JC La Mirada, Calif./Fullerton College 

V.J. Fehoko—LB, 6-0, 222—Fr. HS Honolulu, Hawaii/Farrington HS 

Wykie Freeman—DB, 5-11, 158—Fr. HS Pasadena, Texas/Pasadena Memorial HS 

Jacoby Hale—LB, 6-0, 192—Fr. HS Beaumont, Texas/Beaumont Central HS 

Mike Honeycutt—DB, 5-10 180—Fr. HS Cedar Hills, Utah/Lone Peak HS 

Joe Kruger—DE, 6-7, 245—Fr. HS Orem, Utah/Pleasant Grove HS 

Ofa Latu—LB, 6-1, 210—Fr. HS Provo, Utah/Timpview HS 

Star Lotulelei—DL, 6-4, 300—So. JC South Jordan, Utah/Snow College 

Damian Payne—DB, 6-0, 200—Fr. HS Houston, Texas/Klein Forest HS 

Lucky Radley—RB, 5-9, 187—Fr. HS Woodland Hills, Calif./Taft HS 

Terrell Reese—WR, 6-0, 198—Fr. HS Chappell Hill, Texas/Brenham HS 

Kenneth Scott—WR, 6-3, 192—Fr. HS Fontana, Calif./Colony HS 

Tyler Shreve—QB, 6-3, 218—Fr. HS Highland, Calif./Redlands East Valley HS 

Joseph Smith—DB, 5-9, 179—Fr. HS Corona, Calif./Norco HS 

Sefa Tanoai—TE/DE, 6-3, 275—Fr. HS Pleasant Grove, Utah/Pleasant Grove HS 

Westlee Tonga—TE, 6-4, 235—Fr. HS Spring, Texas/Spring HS 

Ron Tongaonevai—OL, 6-3, 345—So. JC West Valley City, Utah/Snow College 

Sione Tupouata—ATH/DL, 6-4, 260—Fr. HS Oakland, Calif./Fremont HS 

Michael Walker—DB, 5-9, 171—Fr. HS Brenham, Texas/Brenham HS 




Photo by: Ty Cobb

 

 

 

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