Utah football: Utes say they met their needs with recruiting class
The last two years have shown the Utah Utes just how hard competing in a BCS league can be. They now are finding out how difficult it is to compete for recruits in a BCS league.
The Utes went toe-to-toe with several of the top teams in the West for highly recruited players, and they feel they did well enough to fill their needs.
In particular, the Utes profited from a late push that landed them several sought-after players who can help them along the defensive line. It's an area made vulnerable with the loss of Star Lotulelei and Joe Kruger, the junior defensive end who decided to leave school for the NFL.
Commitments from Lowell Lotulelei, the younger brother of Star Lotulelei, junior college transfer Sese Ianu, and Euless, Texas, product Gaius Vaenuku highlight the talent at the position.
Utah coach Kyle Whittingham can't talk about recruits until they have signed, but he said in general he was happy with the class.
"Without a doubt we had a lot of success," he said. "Defensive-line wise, time will tell, but I think it is one of our stronger classes. We added some quarterbacks and we added some running backs. Those were our three biggest areas."
In addition to Vaenuku, the Utes have commitments from his teammates, defensive end Sam Tevi and offensive lineman Salesi Uhatafe.
Utah's ability to recruit the Texas trio is just what the Utes need to do as a Pac-12 school, said Brandon Huffman, a college recruiting analyst for FOX Sports/Scout.com.
"If you are going to build a pipeline with a school, there are few that are as loaded as Euless Trinity in Texas," he said. "They also did another good job in state, especially landing Lowell Lotulelei, the top defensive prospect in the state."
Normally signing day can be a bit nerve-wracking as coaches hope their top talent sticks to their commitments. The Utes can rest a little easy in that respect since some of their better players already have signed or enrolled.
Junior college players who transferred at the midpoint are lineman Andrew Albers, receiver Andre Lewis, defensive back Davion Orphey and tight end Greg Reese.
Brighton High product Uaea Masina has enrolled along with quarterback Brandon Cox.
Cox, a 6-foot-2, 185-pound dual threat quarterback, originally committed to Arizona before switching to the Utes.
The Utes also are expecting Conner Manning, a pro-style quarterback, to sign Wednesday.
The Utes loaded up on running backs, with commitments from junior college transfer Devontae Booker, a 5-11, 195-pound running back out of American River Community College as well as three other high school players.
The other glaring need was for defensive backs where the Utes have commitments from several athletic players.
While the Utes didn't land any so called four-star athletes, which might cause some fans to be concerned, Whittingham isn't.
"We don't pay attention to all that," he said. "We recruit with our eyes and our ears and do our own evaluations and assessments."
Utah's projected class
Player Hometown HS/JC Pos Ht/Wt
Myron Aiava Westminster, Calif. Westminster HS DE 6-4/240 Avid basketball player as well as standout in football
Andrew Albers Costa Mesa, Calif. Orange Coast CC OL 6-7/309 Expected to contend for playing time immediately
Devontae Booker Sacramento, Calif. American River College RB 5-11/200 Academics kept him from fulfilling scholarship at W. St.
Tevin Carter SW Los Angeles, Calif. Los Angeles College S 6-2/220 Should step in and help immediately
Hipolito Corporan Houston Westside HS CB 6-1/172 Switched his commitment from Virginia to Utah
Brandon Cox Pasadena, Calif. Pasadena HS QB 6-3/200 Had committed to Arizona, sidelined with broken foot
Chase Dominguez Orange, Calif. Orange Lutheran LS 6-5/205 Had offers from UCLA, ASU and Oregon
Haile Falemaka Salt Lake City Cottonwood HS OT 6-4/250 Committed to the Utes following junior day
Harrison Handley Sandy Alta HS TE 6-6/210 Went with the Utes over BYU and Utah State
Dominique Hatfield Los Angeles Crenshaw HS WR/CB 5-11/170 Other schools interested but has stayed firm with Utes
Sese Ianu Huntington Beach, Calif. Golden West College DT 6-3/300 ASU, Boise St. and Oregon St., all recruited the tackle
Vili Leveni Hurst, Texas L.D. Bell DE 6-4/220 Also considered Oklahoma State, Houston
Andre Lewis Fairfield, Calif. Diablo Valley College WR 6-3/200 Older brother is Buffalo Bills receiver Steve Johnson
Lowell Lotulelei South Jordan Bingham HS DT 6-2/320 Decided not visit Utah St. or Wisconsin after Utah visit
Conner Manning Lake Forest, Calif. El Toro HS QB 6-2/190 Pro-style QB has remained firm with the Utes
Uaea Masina Salt Lake City Brighton HS LB 6-4/210 Bond with U. defensive coordinator swayed his decision
Troy McCormick Houston, Texas Mayde Creek RB 5-10/165 Picked the Utes over Duke
Filipo Mokofisi Woods Cross Woods Cross HS LB 6-3/210 Could play a year before serving a mission
Davion Orphey Compton, Calif. Santa Ana CC CB 6-0/187 Switched his commitment from BYU to Utah
Marcellus Pippins El Cerrito, Calif. El Cerrito HS CB 5-9/165 Good overall athlete who also excels at basketball
Greg Reese Camden, N.J. Arizona Western CC TE 6-5/236 Solid player adds depth to a high-needs position
X'avier Shepherd Lakewood, Calif. Lakewood HS WR 5-11/175 Picked the Utes over several Pac-12 schools
Leroy Sitake Tanoai Sherman Oaks, Calif. Notre Dame HS OL 6-4/280 Plans to serve a mission before enrolling at Utah
Clarence Smith Buckeye, Ariz. Youngker HS RB/LB 6-3/215 Late addition gives the Utes some bulk
Sam Tevi Euless, Texas Trinity HS DE 6-3/250 Athletic player chose Utes over several Pac-12 schools
Salesi Uhatafe Euless, Texas Trinity HS OT 6-5/315 Hasn't decided if he will still take a trip to Texas Tech
Gaius Vaenuku Euless, Texas Trinity HS DE 6-6/260 Picked the Utes over BYU, Texas Tech, TCU
Marcus Williams Las Vegas Durango HS RB 5-11/205 Hopes to be another good Utah player from Nevada
Dre'Vian Young Houston Nimitz HS RB 5-9/170 Also excels in track, brother Selvin played at Texas