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Utah Recruiting: Part 1 The Long Shots

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NCAA Football: Heart of Dallas Bowl-Utah vs West Virginia Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports

This is the first part of a two part series written by MNUte covering Utah Utes 2018 football recruiting:

With signing day approaching, the eyes of a nation fall upon the hands and signatures of thousands of young men. Since we all love hand wringing and bemoaning why this 18 year old went here or why they chose that school, we’re going to start by taking a look at four long shots who everyone is brushing off but who Utah might still be in the running for. In other words, we’re getting the pessimistic article out of the way so that we can focus on the metaphorical sunshine and rainbows next. So without further ado, Utah fans, here are your long shots.

Penei Sewell:

Sewell is a physical mauler in every sense of the word. Although he needs to improve his pass protection, the physical tools all there for him to develop and excel. My favorite clip of his this season was actually in pass protection when he lifted up a D-end up into the air and WWE slammed him to the ground. Again, not necessarily a technical masterpiece, but a demonstration of the strength, feet and body control to be successful as both a tackle or a guard. Right now, though, Sewell makes his money in run protection. He’s massive, strong, and he knows it, using his strength to just bury defenders.

Sewell has a top four of the Alabama Crimson Tide, Oregon Ducks, USC Trojans, and Utah Utes. He was supposed to sign early but decided at the last minute to wait because he was not ready to commit. This benefits the U in my mind as it shows that Sewell is not just star struck by the big names. USC has backed themselves into a corner right now recruiting wise. They would find a way to make room in their class for a lineman of Sewell’s talent, but given how far over the limit they are (five at the time of last counting), it is not a pretty look for them, especially for someone as family oriented as people claim Sewell is.

No one really knows where Sewell is going to end up. Most predictions started early in the year with USC predictions, transitioned mid-year to Bama, and the majority of recent ones are saying UO. No one seems to really be giving Utah a shot, but I have a nagging feeling Utah’s not out of this. His brother plays for Nevada, and he’s said a few times how important family is to him and how much he’d love for his family to be able to see him play, which they’d be more frequently and easily able to do with him as a Ute. However, until something comes up to give us a better view, Sewell is staying in the long shots pile.

This Tweet from Sewell after Utah’s win in the Heart of Dallas Bowl is at least a small positive sign as well.

Talanoa Hufanga:

The number two athlete in the country according to 247Sports, Hufanga is incredibly talented and being recruited by most of the big-name schools. He loved his trip to Utah and would likely be able to earn immediate playing time with the Utes if he chose to commit. However, he’s from Oregon and got the full-court-press by the Ducks. USC is also going after him hard and it seems like a two-man race between the Ducks and the Trojans. The most recent predictions are all favoring the Trojans, and I’m with them in that prediction. But, Utah is still technically a long shot, and Hufanga picking USC only adds to their scholarship issues. I still have Hufanga as a long-shot because he officially visited Utah, and the Utes might get a hat on the table (should he announce using hats).

Chris Murray:

Probably one of the smartest and meanest guards you see when you watch his film, Murray is a stud who could step in at right guard and play immediately for the Utes. Unfortunately, it is a poorly kept secret that he’s as strong of a Stanford Cardinal lean as you can be without officially committing or signing. If you had asked me a week ago, I would have told you that Utah has zero chance with Murray and that rather than being a long shot, he’s an impossibility.

However, the shakeup that might change things is that Stanford’s Associate Head Coach and Offensive Coordinator. News recently broke that he just agreed to become the Head Coach of the Rice Owls, which is just the kind of coaching instability, even if only temporary, that might get Murray to consider somewhere else. I doubt it, given how committed to academics Murray is as well as football, but it could happen. Even if Murray cools on Stanford, I would still say Utah is probably fourth on his list. Colorado gets his last visit, which goes a long way with a recruit. Notre Dame has more brand power, so I would not count the Irish out. And since he’s Cali boy who’s big on academics, he might even choose Cal over the Utes. So Utah has a chance, especially with the recent shakeup, but for now, I would say it is unlikely.

Michael Ezeike:

Ezeike is the mystery in this class. An absolute matchup nightmare as a big receiver or pass-catching tight end, we all thought there was no chance at Ezeike once he committed to Oregon. But after the living opera formerly known as Willie Taggart took his show on the road to the Florida State Seminoles, Ezeike decommitted and the games began again. Except for this time around, Ezeike’s essentially dropped off the face of the map in terms of information. Utah made his final cut before his initial commitment to Oregon, so it’s likely they’re still in the running for him now that he’s decommitted. Even more in their favor is that after getting burned by coaching instability, Utah and Whitt might have a built in argument Utah is the best program for Ezeike. Given all the drama that’s transpired and his raw talent, this is one of the recruits I’ll be watching the closest on signing day. He could compete for playing time right away at Utah at tight end or wide receiver, which could also help the Utes land the talented California pass catcher.