While it is still very early in the 2016 recruiting cycle, a few things have become clear. After letting multiple four- and five-star in-state prospects get away to Pac-12 rivals, Utah has made in-state recruiting the top priority. Utah also seems to be targeting several position groups more than others.
Utah currently has five players committed for the 2016 recruiting class.
Micah Croom - safety
Croom is Utah's best commit so far in this recruiting class. The 6' 2", 190 safety from La Miranda High School in La Miranda, Calif. is rated as a high three-star recruit but has been rated as a four-star recruit at times and could end up a four-star recruit again with a strong senior season. Croom became very impressed with Utah after they took down UCLA and eventually committed on Nov. 21, 2015. In his film*, Croom's shows he is good in coverage and is not afraid to lay a big hit on an opposing player. Besides his Utah offer, he has offers from Colorado, Illinois, and Western Michigan, but expect a lot more to roll in for him before signing day. If schools closer to home offer, Utah will have to fight to keep Croom committed. Croom could be a starter from day one for Utah.
Kahi Neves - athlete
Neves hails from Brighton High School in Salt Lake City, Utah. The three-star athlete is 6' 3", 238. Neves has the ability to play quarterback or linebacker. He would have decent size for either position at the college level. Last season at Brighton, he played linebacker and was not the quarterback. Neves is being recruited hard by Arizona and took an unofficial visit to USC this spring as well. He will be hard to hold onto, especially if USC offers him. Neves has offers from Arizona, Hawaii, and Utah State in addition to Utah. The one thing Utah has going for them is Neves' dad played at Utah, and Neves was wearing Utah gear at the Oakland Opening.
Tucker Scott - offensive tackle
Scott comes from the same high school as Travis Wilson, San Clemente High School in San Clemente, Calif. The three-star offensive tackle is only 6' 5", 260, so he will need to bulk up to play in the Pac-12. One thing I love about Scott's film* is his nastiness. He is not a dirty player, but he goes after guys all the way to the whistle. He does a nice job of keeping defensive ends away from his body as well. Scott committed to Utah on March 30, 2015. In addition to Utah, Scott has offers from BYU, Nevada, and Utah State. I believe Scott is LDS, but I do not know if he is going to go on a mission. While Scott likely will not have an early impact, he could become a very good player for Utah due to his hard work and tough play on the field.
Kurtis Taufa - linebacker
Taufa currently plays at Snow College in Ephraim, Utah. The 6' 3", 230 linebacker shows in his film* that he possesses great instincts and can deliver a hit. Utah needs to add talent and depth at linebacker in the 2016 class due to linebackers Jared Norris, Gionni Paul, and Jason Whittingham all graduating after the 2015 season. Because he is a JUCO, Taufa could likely step in right away and play. He committed to Utah on Feb. 2, 2015 and is being primarily recruited by Morgan Scalley. Utah will have to fend off Kansas, Missouri, and Washington State, who have all offered Taufa, if they want to keep him committed.
Mitch Wishnowsky - punter
Wishnowsky originally hails from Australia, but he is currently playing football at Santa Barbara City College in Santa Barbara Calif. He is 6' 4" and weighs 220 pounds. Aussie Rules Football players are expected to run and hit, so he will likely be an asset on punt coverage. He gets the huge task of replacing fellow Aussie and Ray Guy Award winning punter Tom Hackett in the 2016 season. Utah is Wishnowsky's only offer.
Utah is targeting athletes, offensive tackles, and linebackers. They already have one tackle and linebacker committed for the 2016 class, but they will want to add a few more. These position groups make sense given that adding fast, talented athletes is always necessary in the Pac-12, tackles are key to protecting the quarterback, and Utah loses all of their starting linebackers after the 2015 season. Utah loses two potential starting receivers after the 2015 season in Kenneth Scott and Tim Patrick. They also will lose Tevin Carter in the secondary. Quarterback is also a position Utah will target in this class. They lost Adam Schulz to transfer and have both Travis Wilson and Kendal Thompson graduating after the 2015 season. Utah did not take a quarterback in the 2015 class, so look for them to take at least one in 2016 (the quarterback could be Neves, but Utah has continued to offer quarterbacks after his commitment).
With the Ute Fast / Ute Furious video, the Utah coaches announced to the college football world that they could no longer come into Utah's backyard and steal talented players. Utah has always wanted to keep talented athletes home, but this year more than any other, that is the focus.
Garrett Bolles - offensive tackle
Bolles is big, strong, nasty, and flat out mauls opposing players. The 6' 6", 290 offensive tackle from Snow College is without question one of Utah's top priorities in the 2016 class. He would immediately step in and be the left tackle Utah has needed since joining the Pac-12. Bolles is rated the No. 2 overall JUCO prospect according to the 24/7 Sports Composite ranking. Watching his film*, it is easy to see why Bolles is rated a high four-star recruit. In addition to Utah, Bolles has offers from Alabama, Arizona State, Arkansas, Auburn, Brigham Young, Florida State, Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Ole Miss, Oregon, Oregon State, Tulsa, Utah State, and Washington State. Bolles was committed to BYU for six months before decommitting at the beginning of May. While Utah will have a lot of competition to land Bolles, they do have a few things going for them. Bolles is a Utah native and is LDS, so he may want to stay close to home. He is being recruited by Jim Harding, who managed to pull in several impressive offensive line recruits in the 2015 class. Bolles would fill a huge need and would keep the top in-state prospect home.
Simi Fehoko - wide receiver
Fehoko is a four-star receiver from Brighton High School. The 6' 4", 180 wide receiver is high school teammates with Neves. Fehoko is a big, rangy wide receiver with great hands. He has good speed as well and can outrun defenders and beat them deep. Fehoko's film* shows how complete of a receiver he is. He would be a huge addition to the Utah receiving corps and could make up for the losses of Scott and Patrick to graduation after the 2015 season. Utah is in the running for Fehoko, who released a top five recently that included BYU, Michigan, Stanford, Utah, and Washington. He also has offers from Arizona State, Clemson, Colorado, Oregon State, Utah State, and Washington State. Do not be surprised if more offers roll in for Fehoko, especially from Pac-12 teams.
Maxs Tupai - defensive end
The 6' 3", 260 pound, four-star defensive end out of Murray High School in Salt Lake City, Utah is rated the top prospect in Utah in the 2016 class by the 24/7 Sports Composite ranking. Tupai would fit in well in "Sack Lake City," he recorded 14.5 sacks last season. His film* shows how hard he can hit, his pass rushing ability, and his nose for the football. Especially for his size, Tupai is quick (you can see his speed in his film when he plays running back or when he is chancing down punt returners). Utah loves quick defensive ends, and Tupai fits the bill perfectly. Defensive end is not a huge area of need for Utah with Hunter Dimick, Kylie Fitts, and Pita Taumoepenu all juniors in 2015, but Tupai is too good of a recruit not to pursue hard. Locking up one of if not the top players in-state is key for Utah to have success moving forward in the Pac-12. Tupai could slide into the rotation as a freshman potentially and may become a star later in his career. Tupai has a ton of offers in addition to Utah, including Arizona, Arizona State, Brigham Young, Hawaii, Nevada, Oklahoma State, Oregon State, Texas Tech, UCLA, USC, Utah State, Washington, Washington State, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. Utah will have their hands full to land Tupai especially with USC showing interested in him. USC cleaned up in the state of Utah last year, landing the top two in-state prospects, Osa Masina and Porter Gustin. Utah cannot afford to lose Tupai to USC or any other Pac-12 team.
Bryce Youngquist - outside linebacker
Youngquist is a four-star outside linebacker from Los Osos High School in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif. (the same high school as Utah incoming freshman Caleb Repp). The 6' 2", 215 pounder has a listed 40-yard dash time of 4.37. Blazing speed like that would be huge for Utah's defense both for pass rushing and for stopping all of the spread offenses in the Pac-12. In his film*, Youngquist shows off his instincts and pass rushing ability. His high school plays a 4-3 defense, so Youngquist would fit in well scheme-wise with Utah's defense. He likely would not need to add as much weight to play 4-3 outside linebacker than he would to play 3-4 outside linebacker (and his speed is more of an asset in a 4-3 than a 3-4). Youngquist released a top 10 that included Tennessee, Wisconsin, Northwestern, Utah, Washington State, Oregon, Oklahoma, Arizona State, Illinois and Oregon State. Bleacher Report released an article where Youngquist released his top 10 and said that he is willing to play anywhere. Given that none of the Pac-12 schools in California have offered him (though they still could), he is willing to play anywhere, and has a former teammate playing for Utah, Utah has to have at least a shot at landing him. He is a player that could have an immediate impact and help mitigate the losses at linebacker after this season.
C.J. Pollard - safety
The 6' 1", 180 pound safety from Junipero Serra High School in Gardena, Calif. is one of the top safeties in the country. Pollard recently released a top five that became a top six when Notre Dame offered, consisting of Arizona State, Michigan, Notre Dame, Oregon, USC, and Utah. Both of Pollard's parents went to USC, so the smart money is on him to go to USC. Odds are, Utah is probably sixth on his list, but they are in it with Pollard until the end. If they could land him, that would be a huge recruiting win. Utah has had two safeties named freshman All-Americans recently (Brian Blechen in 2010 and Eric Rowe in 2011). Safety turned cornerback Eric Rowe was just selected in the second round of the NFL Draft. Staying competitive with a high level recruit until the end can work out even if Utah does not land the recruit. Utah impressed Kylie Fitts enough that when he decided to transfer from UCLA, he chose Utah. While landing Pollard is a huge long shot, it would be a huge recruiting victory for the Utes.
There is an expression "talent begets talent." This is definitely true in recruiting. High level recruits often follow where other high level recruits are going. They also can get to know one another at camps and high All-American games. If Utah can secure several four-star recruits early in this class, it could help to land a few more towards National Signing Day. Lastly, Utah football can sell recruits on a recent report from Sporting Intelligence that found that former Utah football players in the NFL have the seventh highest annual salary, which is tops in the Pac-12. This shows that former Utah football players that make the NFL tend to succeed in the NFL.