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Utah Football Recruiting: What to Watch for Ahead of National Signing Day

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NCAA Football: Holiday Bowl-Northwestern vs Utah Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

The traditional National Signing Day for college football is a week from Wednesday on February 6, 2019. The Utes do not plan to sign a huge class this year due to the large senior class in the 2019 season (though some transfers might allow them to bring in a few more players). We will take a look at where their class stands as of today and what players they might try to target to close out the 2019 class.

Current Class

The Utah Utes currently have the smallest class in the Pac-12 with only nine players signed and an additional four committed. Utah’s class ranks 11th in the Pac-12 (ahead of the Oregon State Beavers) and 65th nationally according to 247Sports. The low rating is partially due to the size of the class (the average player ranking puts Utah seventh in the Pac-12). The highest rated player in the class is San Bernardino (Calif.) Cajon four-star wide receiver Darren Jones, who has not signed (there is a risk he could be an academic casualty, but all signs point to him working hard to prevent that from happening; we also cannot rule out a flip given that he is not signed). The highest rated signed player in the class is Rialto (Calif.) Eisenhower Senior guard Sataoa Laumea, who after a strong Polynesian All-Star Bowl got bumped up to a four-star recruit. Utah’s signees are heavy on the offensive linemen with three for sure offensive linemen signed, and one athlete signed who the coaches plan to play on the offensive line (Falcon Kaumatule). LaColby Tucker, a junior college offensive lineman, is also committed but not yet signed. Utah has two wide receivers in the class so far (Jones and Donte Banton, who has signed). Utah three defensive backs in the class, one punter, one linebacker, and one running back also in the class.

We also cannot forget the two four-star transfers that Utah has landed in quarterback Cameron Rising from the Texas Longhorns and linebacker Manny Bowen from the Penn State Nittany Lions. Rising has to sit out 2019 then will have three years to play three

Remaining targets

Will Utah take a quarterback? With Rising on board, Utah has a great prospect for the future, but the Utes could still look to target a quarterback this year (they were pursing Jayden Daniels even before Jack Tuttle announced his decision to transfer). Utah could also look for a graduate transfer as they are rumored to be in the top two (along with the Washington State Cougars) for Eastern Washington grad transfer Gage Gubrud, who was coached for a year by former Utah offensive coordinator Troy Taylor. If Utah gets Gubrud (and my money is him going to WSU), I do not know if he could unseat Tyler Huntley and Jason Shelley on the depth chart, but he would provide valuable depth and competition for a team with sky high aspirations in 2019.

Utah is still in the running for a few four-star recruits to close out this class as well. Two are either current or former USC Trojans’ commits: Lawndale (Calif.) Lawndale four-star all-purpose back Jordan Wilmore (who decommitted from USC shortly after visiting Utah) and Orem (Utah) Orem four-star wide receiver Puka Nacua, who is still a USC commit but is taking visits. Nacua was named the Co-Polynesian Player of the Year and the Offensive MVP of the Polynesian All-Star Bowl. He recently moved up to be the top player in the state of Utah in the 2019 class. He is the younger brother of current Utah wide receiver Samson Nacua. The USC program is a mess right now, so if Utah could pull both of these players away from the Trojans, it would be a huge coup and further damage USC’s situation. Utah has heavy competition for both players in the Pac-12. Nacua is visiting the Washington Huskies this weekend and also has interest in the Oregon Ducks and UCLA Bruins. Wilmore’s visits before National Signing Day include Utah and UCLA (both completed) and the Arizona State Sun Devils next week. Both of these players would push for playing time immediately. Nacua very well could start for the Utes as a true freshman like Solomon Enis did last year. Wilmore would not get the start over Zack Moss, but he would be a great change of pass back when Moss needs rest.

Another four-star recruit who is considering Utah but likely to head elsewhere (Washington most likely) is Menlo Park (Calif.) Menlo-Atherton linebacker Daniel Heimuli. Heimuli is a huge hitter and would see a lot of playing time as a true freshman if he came to Utah. He does not currently have a visit scheduled to Utah per 247Sports though, so while Utah is likely to have a hat on the table, it is unlikely he will pick it up and put it on his head.

The last four-star recruit to watch is Garden City Community College offensive tackle Bamidele Olaseni. Olaseni could help fill the void left by the graduation of left tackle Jackson Barton. Olaseni, originally from England, is still a bit raw but has incredible physical gifts (he is 6’ 8”, 330 and can move) and would push to start from day one on campus. It is looking like the battle will come down to Utah and the Auburn Tigers for his services.

Other names to keep an eye on are the following three-star recruits: South Jordan (Utah) Bingham defensive tackle Simote Pepa, DeSoto (Texas) Desoto wide receiver La’Vontae Shenault, Houston (Texas) North Shore safety Dorian Hewett, Brentwood (Calif.) Liberty safety Sione Vaki, and Pittsburgh (Kan.) Pittsburgh linebacker Dylan Jordan. Utah has a good shot to land any of these players, and all of the them would make great additions to Utah’s 2019 signing class.

Conclusion

The thing for Utah fans to remember is that this class was always going to need to be small because the 2018 senior class was small and the 2019 senior class is big. Utah also only got a few months to recruit as Pac-12 South Champions for the 2019 class. Utah, if they can land a few of the four-star recruits I mentioned a several more of the three-star players to watch, would round out a great class for 2019. I like a lot of the players that Utah has signed. The offensive line prospects has a great mix of ready to play guys (Laumea and Marist Talavou) and prospects with high ceilings (Kaumatule and Luke Felix-Fualalo). Micah Bernard could prove to be a great offensive weapon for the Utes. I really like the players in the secondary that Utah has gotten in this class. There is a great mix of size and speed among the group. Utah returns a lot of talent next year, so I like that Utah is taking some raw players with high ceilings because the Utes can afford to let them develop for a year or two before they need to contribute. The length that Utah added on the offensive line especially could play huge dividends in the coming years. If Jones signs and qualifies academically, I could see him pushing for a big role in 2019 and beyond with his huge frame.

While we focused on the 2019 class in this article, I want to finish by saying regardless of how the 2019 class finishes, watch out for the 2020 class. Utah will have plenty of time to recruit as the Pac-12 South Champions, and they should be the preseason favorite to win the South with so much talent back. The 2020 class in the West is also loaded, and Utah will have plenty of players graduating, so there will be chances for a lot of guys to come in and push to start right away on the 2020 roster.