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U of U Sports

In-depth look at who signed with the Utah Utes

First Published      Last Updated Feb 01 2017 05:37 pm

Here they are — two key pieces to Utah's secondary puzzle that some were sweating. Between Marquise Blair and Jaylon Johnson, Utah's class will be ranked well inside the top 40 of most scouting services.

The skinny on the latest additions:

MARQUISE BLAIR — 6-foot-2, 185-pound safety from Dodge City College (Kan.) • A native Ohioan, Blair played mostly outside linebacker at his junior college last year and garnered 99 tackles. He’s expected to play safety at Utah, depending on his weight. Big, physical tackler for a defense that requires those qualities, especially down the middle. Morgan Scalley quote: "Marquise is a swiss army knife. The guy is a wrecking machine in the run game. He can cover man-to-man against tight ends." Scout 4-star/Rivals 3-star.

JAYLON JOHNSON — 6-foot, 181-pound defensive back from Central East High School (Calif.) • There was some late panic about whether Utah could seal the deal on one of their highest-rated out-of-state prospects in the Pac-12 era, but in the end Johnson honored his commitment from last fall. He has great size for the position and is particularly skilled at press coverage — he’s expecting to compete for time as a freshman. Several analysts who spoke to the Tribune cited Johnson as a recruit the Utes couldn’t have landed just a few years ago. Sharrieff Shah quote: "You’re talking about somebody that can play red zone fades, stop a guy on the line of scrimmage on a slant. Everything you want a corner to look like and be molded and the way of is what Jaylon brings to the table." Scout 4-star/Rivals 4-star.



The Utes didn’t get the big target they wanted on defensive line — that will be hard to overlook in this signing class. But to Utah’s credit, it did what it could to make up for that loss and sign a solid group of prospects at arguably the program’s signature position.


Between two D-linemen from Hawaii and Utah’s latest commit Nick Ford, the Utes had a less splashy day than they wanted for Sack Lake City, but still brought in some intriguing, versatile prospects. All three are 6-foot-4 or taller, giving Utah some length and possibly pass rushing ability to the front.

A little more about the latest guys:

NICK FORD — 6-foot-5, 285-pound defensive tackle from San Pedro High School (Calif.) • He was considered at both defensive line and offensive line by a variety of Pac-12 schools, including Cal (where his father played receiver) and Colorado. Ford is the tallest prospect in the class, and he used his size to garner 56 tackles and 10 sacks as a senior. Sharrieff Shah quote: "What his greatest gift is, is he uses his hands in such a natural and aggressive way." Scout 3-star/Rivals 3-star.

TAREKE LEWIS — 5-foot-11, 168-pound cornerback from Riverside College (Calif.) • Utah fans were sweating this one out late as Lewis went on other visits despite being committed. He had 16 tackles, seven pass break-ups and two picks as a sophomore. Another speedy DB, he figures to contribute or battle for an early role. He could also contribute in special teams as a returner. Sharrieff Shah quote: "Brings great hands to the cornerback position. … Tareke is a punt returner, kick returner and cornerback. So as a special teams coordinator, I love everything he brings." Scout 4-star/Rivals 3-star.

When we talk about Signing Day winners and losers, Lewis Powell certainly made up for taking a big loss.

The Utah defensive line coach had to be hurt missing out on USC-bound Jay Tufele, but the Hawaiian native made good in his home state, helping nab three commitments there on Signing Day. Utah’s class now has three of the top seven recruits from the Aloha State, according to 247 Sports.

Two of them have officially signed:

MO UNUTOA — 6-foot-5, 280-pound offensive tackle from Kapaa High School (Hi.) • The son of BYU and NFL player Morris Sr., Unutoa’s big frame reflects his bloodlines. He was a standout and all-state player for Kapaa, his athleticism reminding the Utes of Sam Tevi. He’s expected to come to Utah for a year and then decide if he wants to go on an LDS Church mission. Jim Harding quote: "Very good length, great size. He’s really made a positive jump off his film from his junior year, you can see he’s growing into his body." Scout 3-star/Rivals 3-star.

ALIKI VIMAHI — 6-foot-4, 247-pound defensive lineman from Kahuku High School (Hi.) • This high school teammate of Bradlee Anae brings versatility on the line. He’ll need some time to bulk up, but he made an impact for the Hawaiian football powerhouse with six sacks as a senior and a standout day in the Polynesian Bowl with 2 TFLs. He could play inside or out on the defensive line. Lewis Powell quote: "Has a motor, can run and punish people, and is a natural pass rusher." Scout 3-star/Rivals 3-star.

It’s also worth noting that four-star corner Tareke Lewis appears on track to sign with Utah, and we’re still waiting on his NLI. Four-star DB Jaylon Johnson has a radio hit scheduled with ESPN 700 AM later as well, so it bears to reason he’ll be discussing signing with Utah — unless he’s ready to shock the world.

There’s a lot of work left to do for the Utes.

With under four hours to go until Kyle Whittingham’s scheduled press conference, Utah football has yet to announce letters of intent from five players who are marked as commitments. That includes cornerbacks Tareke Lewis and Jaylon Johnson, who are major players and potential early contributors in the class. There was some buzz about other schools being involved late, including ASU and Fresno State for Johnson who is Utah’s highest-ranked prospect, but he if he’s flipping, there’s been no sign of a forthcoming announcement.

The Utes also haven’t announced as of shortly after noon: safety Marquise Blair and Hawaiian defensive linemen Aliki Vimahi and Miki Suguturaga. Both Suguturaga and Vimahi had signing day ceremonies earlier in the day, so their status isn’t necessarily in doubt, but Utah probably would like to wrap up before Whittingham addresses the media.

Here’s who the Utes have added in the last hour or so:

DEVIN LLOYD — 6-foot-3, 219-pound linebacker from Otay Ranch High School (Calif.) • An athletic big body that one analyst compared to Nate Orchard, Lloyd has the only two-star grade in the entire class (from Rivals). But the Utes see him as a guy with a lot of potential, adding weight after playing safety in high school and using some of his speed and length to improve a linebacking corps in need of both. Fred Whittingham quote: "We love his great length and feel he’s the type of linebacker we need in this conference to be able to run, to be incredibly athletic and cover in space." Scout 3-star/Rivals 2-star.

TANIELA PUTUTAU — 6-foot-3, 202-pound athlete from Cottonwood High School • In one recruiting sense, you could say Utah is three for three. They’ve already got older brothers Howard and Fua in the fold, and now they go with the third, an intriguing athlete who missed his senior season with an ACL tear. Pututau said Utah’s loyalty through his injury convinced him to stay home. He’ll serve a mission first. Morgan Scalley quote: "He is long-levered. He is athletic. We’ll see what happens in the mission field but we anticipate him playing defensive line for us." Scout 3-star/Rivals 3-star.

Here comes the hangover.

The Utes could finish out the day well and even pick up a few more commitments, but being spurned by Bingham tackle Jay Tufele is going to sting for a while. The five-star prospect was the top target on Utah’s board for the entire recruiting cycle, but the home team — despite a blitz that included an official visit on the last weekend — couldn’t beat out USC once again for the top overall prospect in the state.

Utah missed two major in-state targets — Tufele and Tayler Katoa — to the Trojans, and it continues an ongoing trend of USC being able to pluck the top talent in the state.

While it’s a big miss for the Utes, two other big adds came in right afterward, the latest commits at cornerback and running back that will cheer some folks up:

T.J. GREEN — 5-foot-11, 185-pound running back from Chandler High School (Ariz.) • A late addition to the class flipping over from Oregon State, Green adds versatility to the backfield. He had an extremely prolific senior year with 2,267 yards and 35 touchdowns on the ground. Green said at the time of his commitment that he really liked Utah’s style of offense it will be installing, as well as the academic support. Fred Whittingham quote: "The thing that stands out about him is his speed. He is a guy that is a breakaway threat at any time." Scout 3-star/Rivals 4-star.

JAVELIN GUIDRY — 5-foot-10, 180-pound cornerback from Vista Murrieta High School (Calif.) • One word: speed. Guidry was clocked last year running a sub-10.5 100-yard dash, one of the fastest prep track times in the nation. But he also has spent a lot of his career playing the man coverage Utah DBs are known for. One analyst who spoke to the Tribune compared him favorably to Colorado corner Chidobe Awuzie, and he could be an upgrade at the nickel position. Sharrieff Shah quote: "We have him clocked in multiple camps in verified times of 4.35, 4.36. Electric speed. What we feel will be his best attribute is his ability to play those inside receivers." Scout 4-star/Rivals 3-star.

Also worth noting: Utah has picked up two Hawaii commitments in defensive linemen Aliki Vimahi and Miki Suguturaga, which are new additions today. We're still waiting on official acknowledgement of NLIs.

Yes, we need a pre-Tufele update because Utah just made its first big splash of Signing Day.

Receiver Bryan Thompson, a former Boise State commit, picked the Utes over a host of late comers, including Oregon, Nebraska and UCLA.

Here's the two latest:

JOHN PENISINI — 6-foot-2, 307-pound defensive tackle from Snow College • Since committing to the Utes almost a year ago, this has arguably been the most rock-solid commit in the class. Penisini sat out last season with a shoulder injury, but that will give him three years of eligibility at Utah (I wrote about him in my piece on Snow College last fall). A versatile athlete who has exceptional strength, he’s being looked at as one of the players who will help the Utes remain one of the most feared teams on defensive line. Morgan Scalley quote: "He’s strong. He’s athletic. His arms are bigger than my legs. This guy’s got a motor." Scout 3-star/Rivals 3-star.

BRYAN THOMPSON — 6-foot-2, 181 pound receiver from Rancho Verde High School (Calif.) • One of Utah’s late pushes who may have been swayed by the new emphasis on throw game, Thompson is a key addition to the class. He was incredibly prolific in high school, catching 77 passes for 1,377 yards and 14 touchdowns. Another example of the length Utah is looking for at what figures to be a prime position in the Troy Taylor offense. Guy Holliday quote: "Out of all the receivers we’re recruiting, he is just athletically gifted. His upside is unbelievable." Scout 3-star/Rivals 4-star.



I’m not going to lie to you all: The going has been slower than expected.

The Utes took until 8:15 to announce the first of their incoming NLIs today, and they include two high school teammates out of Texas and two prep linemen.

JAYLEN DIXON — 5-foot-10, 160-pound receiver from Lone Star High School (Texas) • As the Utes recruited Jason Shelley, his top receiver caught their eye. In each of the last two years, he’s had over 1150 receiving yards and 15 touchdown catches. He projects to as one of the inside receivers at Utah, and could be a valuable playmaker addition as Utah undergoes an offensive makeover. Guy Holliday quote: "One of the things we felt like we lacked is just true straight-line speed. … Anytime you produce those type of numbers in Texas football, it’s really going to be exciting for our offense." Scout 3-star/Rivals 3-star.

MICHAEL RICHARDSON — 6-foot-4, 235-pound offensive tackle from American Fork High School • One of Utah’s few in-state adds, Richardson has to add weight before he can make meaningful contributions on the line. But analysts who spoke to the Tribune believe the two-way high school player is a Pac-12-level athlete who can develop down the line into a high-level player. Justin Ena quote: "You’re getting an athlete at the OT spot that has good feet, quick hands and can kick step really, really well. Good athlete, great kid." Scout 3-star/Rivals 3-star.

ORLANDO UMANA — 6-foot-4, 329-pound offensive guard from Grant High School (Calif.) • A multi-sport athlete (also did track), Umana was a road-grading blocker for a run-heavy Pacers attack last year on his way to all-Metro honors. He also had offers from UCLA, Washington and Arizona. Analysts who spoke to the Tribune think he could be an early competitor for a role on a rebuilding Utah offensive line. Jim Harding quote: "Somebody we feel can come in and really fits our profile of guys that are physical, that are nasty." Scout 3-star/Rivals 3-star.

JASON SHELLEY — 6-foot, 181-pound quarterback from Lone Star High School (Texas) • Utah’s quarterback in this class was prolific at one of the highest levels of Texas football, throwing for 2,975 yards, rushing for 629 yards and totaling 44 touchdowns between the run and the pass. He’s shorter than most passers at the next level, but he often showed his competitiveness in big games such as his dramatic performances at the Star Center last fall. Troy Taylor quote: "In our offense, we need a quarterback that is dynamic, that is a runner, that is tough. Jason is all those things."

Some in-state news came in around 7:30 a.m. — neither East’s Jordan Lolohea nor Hunter’s Lorenzo Fauatea picked Utah, who were listed among their finalists. Both were defensive ends who are mission-first kids. Not huge losses, but there’s still only two in-state preps in the class so far. Jay Tufele is the big fish still out there.


Welcome to Signing Day.

Utah is looking to sign one of its best classes in terms of star average: While there’s only 15 commits and probably won’t be more than 20 by day’s end, the Utes are 27th in Rivals’ average star ranking and tied for 19th in Scout’s average star ranking. As written in our Signing Day preview, the overall baseline for Utah has risen.

A look at where things sit according to the major rankings with 15 guys in the class:

Rivals • No. 52, 3.13 average star ranking; 3 four-stars, 11-three stars, 1 two-star

Scout • No. 41, 3.4 average star ranking; 6 four-stars, 9 three-stars

247Sports • No. 40, 3.2 average star ranking; 3 four-stars, 12 three-stars

ESPN • Unranked (outside top 40); 3.33 average star ranking; 5 four-stars, 10 three-stars

The difference between solid and spectacular in this class just might be Jay Tufele. The 6-foot-2, 280-pound Bingham tackle is considered a top-50 recruit by Scout, Rivals and 247 Sports. Scout quoted his father on Tuesday saying it was down to Utah, USC and Ohio State, and multiple analysts who spoke to The Tribune believe it comes down to the Utes and the Trojans. Getting the top overall recruit in the state would be a big achievement for the Utes in recent times as some have looked out of state for their careers. He’s scheduled to make his announcement at 10 a.m., where the Tribune’s Brennan Smith is expected to be on the scene.

Some other out-of-state players for whom the Utes may be in contention: LB Daniel Green, DL Nick Ford, WR Bryan Thompson, WR Kevaughn Dingle, TE B.J. Thompson, DL Aliki Vimahi, DL Miki Suguturaga and DL Mo Unutoa. Utah could also add in-state talent: The Utes are understood to be in battles for West Jordan DE Alden Tofa, East DE Jordan Lolohea and Hunter DE Lorenzo Fauatea.

Of course, one of the beauties of Signing Day is that some players are already signed and sealed. Here’s who Utah has so far, with relevant measurables, star grades and quotes provided by Utah athletics in videos the department is releasing:

JORDAN AGASIVA — 6-foot-4, 345-pound offensive tackle from Pima College (Ariz.) • It wouldn’t be fair to expect a Bolles-like impact, but Agasiva might be one of the most ready-to-play offensive line recruits in the Pac-12. With a massive frame, he was able to bowl over defensive rushers at the JC level. One analyst who spoke to The Tribune compared him favorably with former USC tackle Zach Banner. Jim Harding quote: "Really physical kid. Good size. We feel he could be a tackle or a guard." Scout 3-star/Rivals 3-star.

CORRION BALLARD — 6-foot-3, 202-pound safety from Blinn College (Texas) • He’s already in the program, in the hunt to replace Marcus Williams in the defensive backfield. He did a little bit of everything in junior college, accounting for 41 tackles, five sacks, three interceptions and eight pass break-ups. May not necessarily have the range of Utah’s last star free safety, but he has a nose for the ball and can hit. Morgan Scalley quote: "He is a striker. He’s got range in the post. I love his athleticism, and he is a smart football player." Scout 4-star/Rivals 4-star.

TYQUEZ HAMPTON — 6-foot-2, 204-pound receiver from El Dorado High School (Texas) • A rangy wideout with a surprisingly fast stride, Hampton’s physical gifts helped him stand out to the Utes. He was a Washington State commit before flipping last fall after experiencing Utah’s gameday atmosphere firsthand. Had 74 catches for 989 yards and 13 receiving TDs as a senior, and he’s expected to fit the mold of receiver the Utes have tried to build in the last year. Guy Holliday quote: "He’ll just add to our length on the outside, that’s something we’ve become known for." Scout 4-star/Rivals 3-star.

Kyle Whittingham presser is at 4 p.m. Get ready for a long day.

kgoon@sltrib.com
Twitter: @kylegoon

 

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