What is a Ute? In the movie My Cousin Vinny the question was asked sincerely by a Southern judge who couldn’t quite comprehend a New York accent. For Utah a Ute is a youth who just happens to be a good football player. Just yesterday, youth Harrison Handley, gave a verbal commitment to Utah. The three star rated tight end by Rivals is the latest in the uptick in talent headed toward Salt Lake City.
Reports out of Utah indicate the move to the Pac-12 has helped the former Mountain West school gain more talented athletes. For example, in 2006 the Utes had six recruits rated in between 72-77 on ESPN. In 2011 there were 13 recruits between a 74-80 rating. The very next year was the inaugural season in the Pac-12 conference, and it saw Utah land 18 signatures between a 73-80.
How Handley would have approached the recruiting process if the Utes were still in the Mountain West is mere conjecture. What can be ascertained, is the Pac-12’s prestige being a contributor to the Utes recruiting process. High school stars dream of playing against the best at the next level. Big games and big moments on national television are the carrot on the end of the recruiting stick.
Handley is 6’6″ 200 lbs and impressed at the Elite 11 camp in pass catching drills. The Utes have more heralded recruits in the 2013 class than Handley which shows the improvement happening on the roster. When a three star recruit such as Handley becomes a middle of the pack commitment, the program is certainly doing something right.