American Fork High School offensive lineman James Empey has committed to sign a letter of intent to play for the Utah Utes. Empey, a 6-3, 265-pounder* is rated a 3-star by Rivals.com and 247Sports.com. The young blocker has been clocked in the 40 at 5.2.
Empey is a solid get for the Utes, as he represents a win in several aspects of the recruiting wars Utah has been battling this offseason. Empey held offers from in-state rivals BYU and Utah State, as well as Pac-12 foes Oregon State (former Utah defensive coordinators Gary Anderson's and Kalani Sitake's new team), Washington, and Washington State. He also had recently visited Oregon State and held another offer from Mountain West Conference champion Boise State.
Pulling a highly regarded player from Utah County is always a victory (even if the team down south will never acknowledge the loss), but even more so is beating Anderson and his staff for a recruit. Since taking over at Oregon State and luring Sitake and Ilaisa Tuiaki to the Pacific Northwest, Anderson has gone head-to-head with Utah for both uncommitted players and Utes commits, flipping some.
Empey's film shows a relentless force who plays to the whistle. He's the kind of pancaking lineman Utah's Jim Harding can turn into a productive Power 5-level blocker. Empey is listed as a tackle but also played on the interior line as a guard, and his versatility could be important at the Pac-12 level. He's agile enough to pull with violence and strong enough to just bull ahead on run blocks. In pass blocking, Empey has a strong first punch, but continues to push through the play. He has good vision and, at the high school level, was able to take on multiple rushers.
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>Committed to the University of Utah! I want to thank all the programs and coaches for recruiting me! <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/GoUtes?src=hash">#GoUtes</a>!</p>— James Empey (@JEmpey66) <a href="https://twitter.com/JEmpey66/status/559921798389567488">January 27, 2015</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>
Another aspect to the Empey commit that Utes fans might want to mull over is the rise of Jim Harding as a Utah recruiter. Thus far, Harding has pulled in offensive linemen Empey, Johnny Capra, Nick Carman, Keven Dixon, Jr., Jake Grant, running back Marcel Brown, and athlete Chad Hekking. That's seven of Utah's current 20 commits, or 35 percent of the overall 2015 recruiting class. And all seven of Harding's recruits have been three stars.
*All stats and film courtesy of Hudl.