Utes recruiting for conference move

It's a new beginning for Utah, and a switch from the Mountain West to the Pac-12 meant a new way of recruiting for head coach Kyle Whittingham.

"As we expected, recruiting in the Pac-12 Conference is very competitive environment," Whittingham said in a released statement. "Our coaches did a great job of identifying talent and targeting who we were going to recruit, and our current players did a great job of selling what the University of Utah has to offer. The players we signed are excited to start a new era here at Utah, and we are optimistic that they will help our transition to the Pac-12."

Utah was able to fill a need with the signings of running backs Harvey Langi (South Jordan, Utah/Bingham) and Jarrell Oliver (Sugarland, Texas/Dulles). The Utes also found themselves a playmaking receiver from the junior college ranks in Anthony Denham (East Los Angeles C.C.).

Denham, who selected Utah over UCF and Cincinnati, is expected to be an immediate contributor.

"Part of the reason why I chose Utah was because of the opportunity to play early," Denham said. "If you look at which receivers have left, it gives me a chance to get on the field early.

"Between that and having Norm Chow as an offensive coordinator, Utah was the best fit for me."

Chow had been the offensive coordinator at Pac-10 powers UCLA and USC before joining the Utes' coaching staff last week. It's a return to Utah for Chow, who previously coached at BYU. He also was offensive coordinator for the NFL's Tennessee Titans from 2005 to 2007.

Even though Utah doesn't officially join the Pac-12 until July 1, the Utes have been recruiting for the conference since being invited to join last year. One of the reasons why Utah needed the 6-foot-5 Denham is to matchup against a stronger group of defenders.

"I think the program is bringing in the right players to compete in the Pac-12," Denham added. "They are bringing big-time players into the program and that's what's necessary to compete in the conference."

By signing six players from California, it's evident that Whittingham will continue to heavily scout the West Coast. But Whittingham won't be straying too far from home; Utah signed nine in-state prospects, including four of the state's top 10.

"We did very well in-state, which is always our top priority," Whittingham said. "We also spend a lot of time and effort every year recruiting Texas and California, and we like our results in those states as well."

BYU, which is also leaving the Mountain West to become an independent, also signed four of the state's top 10 prospects.

Corey Long has been covering high school football and recruiting in the Sunshine State since 1995. He can be reached at coreyespn@gmail.com.