Utah football: Utes go to California for more than a game

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With the Utah Utes playing at San Jose State, which is only a few hours away from his hometown, Joseph Smith, a cornerback out of Norco, Calif., hopes he can attend Saturday's game.

Smith already has committed to the Utes, but would like to see the defense in person.

"Watching on TV like that, you can get sidetracked," he said. "If I'm there, my focus is 100 percent on the game. It's only about a 45-minute plane ride away; that would be just enough time to eat and get off the plane."

Utah's coaching staff hopes others like Smith take advantage of their visit to California and attend the game Saturday.

Realizing it's often hard for recruits and their families to pay travel expenses to come to Utah for a game, the Utes go to the recruiting hotbeds rather than hope the recruits come to them.

Gaining that kind of exposure is why Utah would like to schedule a game in the Texas area, has tentative plans to play a home-and-home series with Hawaii in the future and travels to the West Coast for games against San Jose State and Oregon, where Utah plays next week.

"Geographically it makes sense to go to California," Utah football coach Kyle Whittingham said. "To be able to go over there and get exposure in recruiting is a positive. We can say, 'Hey, we're playing here so it's a chance for your family and friends to come see us.'"

Making such an encouragement for such a visit, however, is about all the Utes can do. NCAA rules prevent teams from giving complimentary tickets or passes or even talking with recruits or arranging visits.

Most interactions take place on official or unofficial campus visits to Utah. Schools are allowed to pay for 56 official visits a year in which expenses such as travel, lodging and food are covered.

However, since Utah prefers to bring its recruits to campus after the season in December and January when coaches can spend more time with recruits, future prospects are advised to attend games on unofficial visits or take advantage of close road games such as Saturday's if they want to see the Utes play in person.

The Utes hope 10 to 15 prospects come to the game, although there is no way of knowing for sure how many will sit in the stands and watch their possible future team play.

Smith, for one, hopes he is there.

"I have to see how our schedule is, but there are a lot of good teams in California so it's good they come here," he said.

California has long been a target for the Utes in recruiting, as it has for many programs in the Intermountain region. The Utes already have five oral commitments from California toward their 2010 class. One of the reasons Whittingham hired cornerbacks coach J.D. Williams, who spent the last two seasons at Washington, was for his California ties.

His recruiting area is Central and Northern California, while wide receivers coach Aaron Roderick (Orange County, San Bernardino), defensive line coach John Pease (San Fernando Valley to Santa Barbara), defensive coordinator Kalani Sitake (Los Angeles) and offensive coordinator Dave Schramm (San Diego, Riverside) all have recruiting responsibilities in California.

Brandon Huffman, the West recruiting manager for Scout.com, said more and more recruits are mentioning Utah as a possible future program and that playing at San Jose State will only help the Utes' efforts.

Getting oral commitments from receiver Dres Anderson, the son of former Rams receiver Willie "Flipper" Anderson" and four-star receiver Kenneth Scott out of Ontario, Calif., shows that the Utes are doing something right, Huffman said.

"I always think it's big for a school that recruits a certain region to try and play out there if they can," he said. "While NorCal may not have as much talent as SoCal, there are still some great players up there this year, so for Utah to make a presence there would be big, especially since they're a known, national name."

That is what the Utes hope to do Saturday, make a presence, oh, and get a win.

Notes » Defender Koa Misi, who missed the opener with a back injury, participated in practice Monday and is expected to play. "We're counting on it," Whittingham said. ... Whittingham said he was able to watch some college football Saturday, including Alabama-Virginia Tech as well as some conference games and was happy with the conference results. "We just added to our argument, a couple more examples of the Mountain West Conference playing very good football," he said. "We'll keep doing it on the field, it's where we have to do it."


2010 Oral Commitments from California recruits

Dres Anderson, 6-2, 170-pound receiver out of North H.S. in Riverside, Calif.

Brian Blechen, 6-3, 190-pound quarterback out of Moorpark, Calif.

Jamil Douglas, 6-foot-5, 245-pound offensive tackle out of Cypress H.S. in California

Kenneth Scott, 6-2, 198-pound receiver out of Colony H.S. in Ontario, Calif.

Joseph Smith, 5-11, 185-pound corner out of Norco, Calif.

Golden touch

The Utah Utes place an emphasis on recruiting in California. Here's a look at the number of recruits with California ties they've landed under coach Kyle Whittingham.

2006 class -- 12

2007 -- 12

2008 -- 9

2009 -- 8

2010 -- 5 so far

Utah at San Jose State

Saturday, 8:30 p.m. MDT