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Early Look Ahead to the 2019 Class

Utah v USC Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

Now that we are through the 2018 recruiting cycle, let’s shift our focus to the 2019 recruiting class for the Utah Utes. Unlike this time last year, Utah does not have any commits currently for the 2019 class (Utah already had Jack Tuttle and Hunter Lotulelei committed prior to this point last year for the 2018 class). Since Utah does not have any commits, we will focus on some potential recruiting targets for the Utes. Since it is still early, it is difficult to tell where any of these recruits will sign, so the point of this article is just to point out some recruits that have interest in Utah that you as fans should know about because they could be potential signees for Utah come December 2018 or February 2019. One big change in the 2019 class is that recruits can take official visits in the spring rather than just the fall or winter. This will be something to watch as players can officially visit schools earlier than ever before.

First five-star commit ever?

Henry To’oto’o is a five-star linebacker out of powerhouse De La Salle in Concord, Calif. You might be thinking, why would Utah have a shot with a five-star player from California? Well, his uncle Kenape Eliapo played for Utah on the Sugar Bowl team, and To’oto’o described Utah as his childhood dream school. He would have been likely 8 years old when Utah won the Sugar Bowl with his uncle starting, and memories like that can be powerful. We talked about Utah offering him here. Utah has never signed a five-star recruit, meaning To’oto’o would be the first if Utah sign him. While Utah might be in the mix because of the family connection, it is still at best a massive long shot that he would come to Utah. Pac-12 recruiting titans like Oregon, UCLA, and Washington are all involved, and it is likely only a matter of time before USC offers. National brands like Alabama, Michigan, Nebraska, and Notre Dame have also offered, and many more will likely show interest in him. If Utah can get an official visit, it would be huge. Winning the Pac-12 South in 2018 would also likely go a long way to help Utah land a player of To’oto’o’s caliber. In each of the last two classes, Utah has pulled a blue-chip recruiting out of California that was coveted by blue-blood programs (Jaylon Johnson in 2017 and Jack Tuttle in 2018), can To’oto’o continue that streak for Utah in 2019?

Tons of talent in Hawaii

In the 2016 and 2017 class, Utah recruited well in Hawaii, and they have a history of pulling in plenty of talent from the islands (brothers Chris and Ma’ake Kemoeatu being two examples who came to Utah from Hawaii and made the NFL). One high school in particular where Utah has had success is powerhouse Kahuku on the North Shore of Oahu (both Kemoeatu brothers played there as did current Utah defensive end Bradlee Anae). There is one five-star player in Hawaii in 2019 and four four-star players.

Enokk Vimahi sits just outside the top 100 and is the No. 2 rated player in Hawaii in 2019 and plays for Kahuku. If Vimahi sounds like a familiar last name, it is because Utah signed Aliki Vimahi in 2017 (who is currently serving an LDS Mission), Enokk’s older brother. This could help in recruiting Vimahi along with the strong connection between Kahuku and Utah. Utah will have a tough battle for Vimahi with programs including Arizona State, Florida, Georgia Tech, Nebraska, Oklahoma State, Ole Miss, Oregon, Tennessee, UCLA, USC, Virginia, and Washington all having offered him among others. Like To’oto’o, due to the family connection, Utah could be in the battle for Vimahi’s services.

Maninoa Tufono out of Punahou High School in Honolulu unofficially visited Utah during the 2017 season, so there is interest in the Utes from one of the top rated inside linebackers in the country. He has offers from all of the top programs in the Pac-12 and many others from around the nation. This one seems like a long shot, but if Utah made a great impression on him during his unofficial visit, maybe Utah can stay in the battle for him. UW currently leads the way in the 247Sports Crystal Ball (though there is only one prediction).

Tackle Julius Buelow out of Kapolei High School in Kapolei on Oahu is massive at 6’ 7” 292 pounds. He is rated in the Top 247. He has offers from all over, including from Florida, Oregon, UCLA, and Washington. While Utah has not offered him yet, there is one older prediction in the 247Sports Crystal Ball for Utah.

Future quarterback?

Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham has said many times the program likes to have four scholarship quarterbacks, and they currently have three. I would expect Utah to take a quarterback in the 2019 class because of this. The name to watch right now is Hank Bachmeier

Bachmeier is out of Murrieta Valley High School in Murrieta, Calif. Minnesota is currently trending for Bachmeier in the 247Sports Crystal Ball. Utah has been on Bachmeier, so while getting him seems unlikely, he is one to watch for Utah fans.

Another name to watch is Ryan Hilinski, the younger brother of former WSU quarterback Tyler Hilinski. Hilinski plays at Orange Lutheran High School in Orange, Calif. He is just below a four-star ranking and is a top 10 pro-style quarterback prospect. Ole Miss, who he unofficially visited, is trending in the 247Sports Crystal Ball with one prediction.

The quarterback that Utah might be the most likely to get is Kaiden Bennett. He is a three-star recruit from Folsom High School, the high school where Troy Taylor used to coach. Bennett is little undersized at 6’ 0”, 170, and Utah is currently his only offer, but his numbers are eye popping. He was a junior All-American throwing for 4,431 yards and 57 touchdowns and rushing for another 1,218 yards and 16 touchdowns. If he was two inches taller and 30 pounds heavier with those numbers, he would be a four- or five-star recruit. Watching his film, he has good arm strength and can make a lot of different throws. He has good awareness in the pocket and can extend the play. He looks to pass first even with his above average running ability. While he may not have the prototypical NFL size, he could be a star in college, and I trust Taylor’s evaluation here since he used to coach at Folsom. There are currently two recent predictions for Bennett to Utah in the 247Sports Crystal Ball. Quarterbacks tend to commit earlier, so do not be surprised if he is the first commit for Utah in the 2019 class.

Other out-of-state prospects

Speaking of Folsom, athlete Joe Ngata is a four-star recruit from Folsom High School. UW is the early favorite in the 247Sports Crystal Ball with USC also having a prediction, but I would not necessarily count Utah out on this one because of Taylor’s connection to Folsom. If they get Bennett, he could provide another boost in the recruitment of Ngata, who is 6’ 4”, 210 and would likely play wide receiver. He has offers from pretty much everyone including Alabama, Clemson, Florida State, Michigan, Penn State, and most of the Pac-12.

Jalen Cropper is a four-star athlete from Sanger High School in Sanger, Calif. which is near Fresno, Calif. He currently has offers from Arizona, Oregon, Oregon State, UCLA, and Utah in the Pac-12. Utah signed Jaylon Johnson, a four-star cornerback out of Fresno, Calif. in the 2017 class, and it looks like they are trying to pull another four-star prospect out of the San Joaquin Valley. He does it all for Sanger. He is an option quarterback, running back, wide receiver, defensive back, and returns kicks and punts. At 6’ 0”, 154, he needs to add some weight, but he has an unofficial 40 time of 4.51 listed and is dynamic in his film. There are two recent predictions for him to Utah in the 247Sports Crystal Ball. He would be a huge get for Utah if they can land him.

Local prospects

The top two players in the state of Utah in 2019 and the only two four-star recruits, Orem’s Chuck Alatini and East’s Siaki Ika, are both committed to BYU and have been for more than six months each. Update: Ika decommitted from BYU last night and has opened up his recruitment. Neither rates as highly as the top four prospects from Utah in the 2018 class. At this time in the 2018 class however, multiple players who finished as four-star recruits were ranked much lower, so the number of four-star recruits could increase as the camp circuit happens in the spring and summer. First up, a pair of three-star outside linebackers from Bingham:

Langi has a pair of out-of-state offers from Cal and Vanderbilt so far while Tafuna has only received offers from the local schools but expect that to change and for both players to get more interest from other programs. Both players have one prediction for Utah in the 247Sports Crystal Ball. Langi is the younger brother of Harvey Langi, who signed with Utah out of high school before transferring to BYU following his LDS Mission.

The younger brother of former BYU Cougar Kai Nacua (older brother Isaiah also signed with BYU) and current Utah Ute Samson Nacua, Puka Nacua is my prediction for a current three-star recruit most likely to blow up before National Signing Day. Nacua played really well as a junior, helping lead Orem to a state title, tying the state record set by former four-star recruit Simi Fehoko of Brighton for touchdown receptions in a season with 24. The only out-of-state offer he currently has is Arizona, but expect that number to grow and possibly by a lot. He has unofficially visited UCLA and USC (twice). There are currently two predictions in the 247Sports Crystal Ball for Nacua, one for BYU and one for Utah.

Bingham is loaded with talent this year as they often are. Simote Pepa is a big defensive tackle at 6’ 2”, 295. Bingham has produced a ton of great defensive tackles, and Pepa could be another in that long line. Utah is currently his only offer, and there is one prediction for Utah in the 247Sports Crystal Ball. I am going to predict that he gets a lot more offers in the next year. He was dominant in the state championship game against East. He beat Junior Angilau several times, who was a four-star recruit in the 2018 class and is headed to Texas. It would not surprise me if Pepa blows up this spring/summer. He is very athletic and moves really well for his size.