The adage in college football is that “recruiting never stops.” For the Utah Utes that seems particularly appropriate this summer, as coach Kyle Whittingham and his staff have been busy working on their 2014 signing class.
The Utes have nine commitments so far, including six from Utah with East High tight end Joe Tukuafu committing on Monday.
He joins what appears to be a promising class, with Brighton lineman Jackson Barton and Tooele lineman Allan Havili being among the other standouts from Utah.
One Utah player the Utes would love to add to their list is Bingham tight end Dalton Schultz, who is being recruited by virtually every major program in the country. Stanford is pushing hard for the 6-foot-6, 230-pounder, so getting him to commit to Utah would be a huge get for the Utes.
Even with Schultz still undecided, it is a strong start for the Utes, according to FOX Sports/Scout.com recruiting analyst Brandon Huffman.
“Getting an early commitment from Jackson Barton, who is a four-star with national offers, was huge,” he said. “Amone Finau and Allan Havili are two other great in-state gets. Kenyon Frison might have been an under-the-radar guy when he committed, but after his performance at the Oakland Nike Camp, he’s not a surprise anymore. He was terrific there and Utah may be getting a steal in him.”
Keeping Frison now becomes the priority as other schools start wooing him.
Working in Utah’s favor is buzz about the new multimillion-dollar football facility that recently opened.
While he can’t speak about particular recruits according to NCAA rules, Morgan Scalley, Utah’s safeties coach and recruiting coordinator, said the building will give Utah an advantage it has never had before as the facility is better or equal to many facilities in the Pac-12.
“Everyone is blown away by it,” he said. “We like to show it off. You’d like to say it’s not about that kind of thing, but to some kids it is and they want to know they are going to be in a comfortable environment. They want to know football is a priority, and it shows that.”
Scalley said the Utes’ needs for 2014 are offensive linemen, receivers, safeties and defensive ends.
As always, the Utes want to sign a quarterback as well.
The Utes missed out on one candidate when Texas product Aaron Sharp recently switched his commitment from Utah to Kansas State less than a day after committing to Utah, but the Utes are still in the running with a few other quarterbacks.
Brandon Dawkins, a 6-3, 200-pound quarterback out of Westlake Village, Calif., who also has offers from Arizona and Notre Dame; Donovan Isom, a quarterback out of Destrehan H.S. in Louisiana; and Jarrett Hildreth, a quarterback out of League City, Texas, are being recruited by the Utes.
Isom is making an unofficial visit to Utah this week and is considered the best of the bunch to replace Sharp in the class.
John Bonney, a safety out of Lamar H.S. in Texas; Jeremy Winchester, a cornerback out of Spring, Texas; Isaiah Johnson, a receiver out of Bryan, Texas; and Mason Denley, a defensive end out of Columbus, Texas, are among the others the Utes are heavily recruiting.
Being able to pry some of that talent out of Texas and away from other BCS schools would go a long way in establishing Utah as a player for some of Texas’ top talent.
The Utes, who failed to qualify for a bowl game last year, need to sign a solid class if they want to become a Pac-12 contender, Huffman said.
“Last year can look like a one-year aberration with a new quarterback after the incumbent went down with an injury,” he said. “A second mediocre year and it looks more like the rule than the exception. But you can make a case that Utah was three to four plays away from being 8-4 and in a bowl game. They’re close, but they need to win and be competitive. A top -three finish in the Pac-12 South would be huge for them, especially with Colorado now having a new coaching staff and being able to sell vision.”
Utah’s 2014 commitments
Player School Pos. Ht/Wt
Jackson Barton Brighton OL 6-6/275
Still drawing interest from other schools despite commitment
Kyle Christiansen Mountain Crest DT 6-4/320
Will go on a mission before joining Utes
Amone Finau Kearns RB 6-2/180
Good showing at camps helped his stock climb
Kenyon Frison Granger OT 6-8/290
Committed before taking a visit
Bobby Hartzog Westside (Texas) CB 5-10/185
Playing receiver in H.S. but Utes have him pegged as a corner
Allan Havili Stansbury DT 6-4/270
Highly sought-after player a big get for the Utes
Raelon Singleton Crosby (Texas) WR 6-4/185
Solid speedster also a very good blocker
Joe Tukuafu East TE 6-4/235
Solid blocker who can also play defense