Utah football coaches have been on the recruiting trail and the fact that the Utes had a first-round NFL draft pick last weekend enhanced their sales pitch.

Linebacker Devin Lloyd was selected No. 27 overall in the draft by the Jacksonville Jaguars and Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham and linebackers coach Colton Swan were in Las Vegas to be with Lloyd for his big moment.

No doubt, recruits take notice.

“The NFL draft is viewed by millions and millions out there,” Swan said. “It’s nice to have the University of Utah in the first round.”

“It’s a big recruiting selling point for athletes. If you want develop and become the best you can be, Utah is a great spot for you,” Whittingham said. “It also speaks to the evaluation and expertise that our assistant coaches have in evaluating and projecting the guys and think they will be successful and the development of those guys once they get into the program.”

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“It’s great for the program; great for recruiting. It lets kids know that if you’re looking for a place to play and a place to develop, we’ve got something good going here at Utah. The development that we are able to achieve with our players in the program has been second to none, in our opinion.”

Lloyd is an ideal example of how the Utes have been able to identify, and develop, talent. 

“When we recruited him, he was a very lightly recruited athlete. Not a lot of schools were on him. It was a projection on our part. We thought he could grow into a linebacker,” Whittingham recalled. “He didn’t play linebacker in high school. He was a receiver and a safety. He was a terrific basketball player. We saw the raw material there and his frame and speed. We thought that if we could put 20-30 pounds on him, he could be a real force at linebacker. We’re not always right, but with Devin, we were right.”

Swan said Lloyd will make big contributions to Jacksonville, just as he did at Utah. 

Utah linebacker Devin Lloyd is projected as a top 5 draft pick by The Athletic’s Bruce Feldman.
Utah’s linebacker Devin Lloyd celebrates with this teammates after an interception against Washington State at Rice-Eccles Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021 in Salt Lake City. | Shafkat Anowar, Deseret News

“He’s a very competitive, compelling type of leader. He’s going to do everything right himself and make sure he’s in position to bring others with him,” Swan said. “He’s a quick study. He’ll be able to pick up this defense quick. He’ll shows that he’s a guy that can communicate on the field and run the defense. He’s going to consume himself with football. He’s a true professional. He’s always striving for greatness.”

Off the field, Lloyd is a strong leader and he exemplified that during the past season. 

“In 2020, when we lost Ty Jordan and in 2021 when we lost Aaron Lowe, the team was at a point where it could have gone either direction,” Swan said. “We could have gone down in the dumps or we could have come together and did what we ended up doing. A large part of what we did was because of the leadership of Devin Lloyd. It’s good to have him with that on his shoulders, carrying the weight of the team. That’s who he is and that’s what he does.”

Whittingham also extolled Lloyd’s leadership skills. 

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“Rock solid. He’s a great leader. He’s so in tune with his teammates. He makes those around him better,” he said. “He did a great job as far as setting the standard then demanding that everybody live up to that standard.”

Having a player like Lloyd get drafted in the first round was the message Utah’s coaching staff wants amplified. 

“Utah’s a great place to play football. It’s a developmental school. Hard-nosed, tough type of football team that’s going to compete every Saturday,” Swan said. “That’s what I admire about it the most. We develop and teach these men what accountability and toughness is all about. Great night for the program and for it to be on display on the first round. It helps in the recruiting phase and showing to other guys, ‘If you come to Utah, this is what we can do with you.’”

Utah linebacker Devin Lloyd stands with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell after being chosen by the Jacksonville Jaguars with the 27th pick of the NFL draft Thursday, April 28, 2022, in Las Vegas. | John Locher, Associated Press