Move along, folks! Nothing here to see! Porter Gustin made it a clean sweep of the top linebackers leaving the state of Utah, as he committed to sign with the Utes Pac-12 rival USC.
This recruiting season, Utah has whiffed on all three of the best linebackers, a five-star* (Osa Masina, whose brother plays at Utah), a four-star (Gustin), and a three-star (Christian Folau, who is committed to signing with Oregon State). Since joining the Pac-12, it has been clear that P5-quality linebackers were lacking on the Utes roster, so that was a clear area of need for the 2015 class, especially with Utes LBs Jason Whittingham, Gionni Paul, and Jared Norris all being seniors in 2015. Uaea Masina, Marcus Sanders-Williams, and Pita Taumoepenu are the top linebackers behind the starting three, but all three of them will be juniors.
Did Utah's coaching vacancy at defensive coordinator contribute to the recruiting losses? Perhaps.
Are we talking about 18-year-olds here? Definitely.
Are 18-year-olds inexperienced and fickle? Yes.
Are we talking about competition like USC and Ohio State, two of the most storied programs in college football? Yes.
But that doesn't discount the true job of recruiting, convincing an 18-year-old kid that X or Y school is the one for him. It's a sales job, and, right now, other schools are doing that job better. Utah currently ranks 10th out of 12 conference schools as far as class rankings, even while Utah was in the top half of the conference in wins this season and beat traditional powers USC, UCLA and Stanford. (There's a reason many Utah fans wanted former Washington and USC assistant Tosh Lupoi to be hired onto the Utes staff with the departures of Kalani Sitake and Ilaisa Tuiaki.)
USC has twice this year come into the the Utes back yard and walked off with big gets, garnering commitments from both Gustin and Masina. Oregon State has done it, as well, getting Folau's verbal. Folau may be even the most damaging, as he played almost literally in Utah's back yard at East High School in the shadow of Rice-Eccles Stadium.
Utah, on the other hand, has one four-star commit on their list right now from a Pac-12 area, four-star JC defensive back Cory Butler out of Los Angeles Harbor Community College. According to Rivals.com, Butler didn't have an offer from USC or UCLA.
That said, Utah co-offensive coordinator Jim Harding deserves a lot of credit for bringing in about a third of the Utes 2015 class all by himself. As noted before in an article about the commitment of offensive lineman Darrin Paulo, Harding has convinced eight three-star players to commit to Utah, including six three-star offensive linemen. Harding is clearly a good salesman, a coach players like and has a pitch that resonates.
Is Utah going to win every head-to-head recruiting battle with the USCs, Stanfords, Oklahomas, Texases, Alabamas, Oregons, and Ohio States of the college football world? No. Of course not. But if the Utes expect to ever win a Pac-12 championship and compete for a shot at a playoff berth and national title, they'd better start winning some, especially talented, in-state prospects.
*Ratings courtesy of 24/7 composite rankings.