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He's exactly the guy, the die-hards said, that Utah has to get.
A 6-foot-3, 220-pound safety/linebacker with wheels, savvy and ball skills, Sean Barton played with future Ute Filipo Mokofisi at Woods Cross, less than 20 minutes away from Rice-Eccles Stadium. He's the grandson of a U. language professor of 51 years. His family has had season tickets to Ute football and basketball "for as long as, literally, I can remember," said his father, Carl.
And in stepped Stanford's Lance Anderson to ruin everything.
The state of Utah has produced nine four-star prospects in the last three recruiting classes, as rated by Rivals.com. Anderson has landed three of those: Barton, Bingham's Dalton Schultz and Pleasant Grove's Brandon Fanaika.
The Utes? Only two.
The Cardinal's defensive coordinator runs the nation's No. 5 defense, is seemingly liked by everybody who's ever met him, and is as much an obstacle to Utah's success as any one man.
"Sean's really interested in the education there, don't get me wrong," said Carl Barton. "But I don't think Sean would have chosen Stanford without Lance Anderson."
Anderson isn't your typical out-of-state recruiter. For starters, he's LDS, and he's from Southern Idaho.
He first began to recruit the region as an assistant coach at Bucknell, from 1999 to 2002. Later, in 2004, he oversaw in-state recruiting efforts as a linebackers coach at Utah State.
He enjoys Maddox's in Brigham City and Red Iguana in Salt Lake, and golfing during the spring at Valley View in Layton and Thanksgiving Point in Lehi.
Bingham head coach Dave Peck said that after Anderson's many visits, he considers him a personal friend. Anderson invited Peck and his assistants to observe spring ball in Palo Alto in 2010, when Jim Harbaugh was still head coach, and "they treated us like gold," he said.
"He's here on a regular basis. Our kids definitely know who Lance is."
Ironically, Anderson briefly played at Idaho State under the guy he most reminds Carl Barton of: Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham.
Whittingham was Anderson's coach for just one season, when Anderson required ankle surgery shortly after fall camp began, so his memories of Anderson the player are limited: "Good linebacker, tough kid."
But Anderson remembers attending Idaho State camps while he was a prep at Minico High, and being awed by Whittingham.
"As a high school kid, I was like, 'Wow, here's a guy that understands football and understands the linebacker position.'"
Twenty years later, the coach and his former player hold leadership positions with similar smash-mouth Pac-12 programs, and they are pitted against each other on the recruiting trail.
Whittingham said he and Anderson have talked often in the last few years. Very detail-oriented and analytical himself, he has gained a respect for Anderson's thorough approach.
Anderson's three-for-nine four-star haul is even more impressive when you consider that he's expected to find students who can earn a degree at Stanford.
Stanford's admissions standards for football prospects are not quite what they are for budding rocket scientists, but they only offer athletes they deem capable of succeeding in the classrooom, and according to the NCAA's latest figures, 99 percent of Cardinal football players who enrolled six years ago have graduated.
Carl Barton said Anderson didn't try to wow them with the value of a Stanford education; he gave them the basics, sure, but he expected them to realize the opportunity without a heavy-handed sales pitch.
"He's a guy you could rely on when he told you something," said Carl Barton. "You learned over the course of time that he was kind of a no-BS, low-key guy who really tells things like it is."
Making the decision easier for the Bartons is that Stanford has honored past commitments to returned LDS missionaries dating back to San Francisco 49ers tight end Greg Clark, and more recently, Pleasant Grove quarterback/safety Dallas Lloyd and that Anderson himself is LDS.
Sean Barton is currently in Togo, serving his mission and working out six times a week with a set of weights he paid West Africans to make for him. Carl Barton said Stanford has balanced giving his son space (while other schools regularly request his email address) with keeping tabs on him (Anderson and Carl Barton spoke just last week).
Anderson acknowledged that his faith is important to LDS families, and that Utah and BYU are no longer the lone options for prep standouts who hope to play high-level football after returning from a mission.
"More and more schools, more and more coaches are understanding the process, and what a mission is, and how important it is to some of these kids," he said.
Utah is not Anderson's only territory. He's one of the Pac-12's recruiting aces, with targets around the nation LDS, and plenty who are not LDS.
But he admits Utah has been especially good to him.
And there are some kids in the 2015 class he has his eye on.
Uh-oh, say the die-hards.
No. 25 Utah at Stanford
P Saturday, 4 p.m.
TV • Pac-12 Network