The Utah Utes did their best to ensure they won't be caught short-handed at critical positions again, loading up Wednesday on linemen, running backs and quarterbacks for their 2013 signing class.
Utah's class officially stood at 24, including 2011 signee Tevita Bloomfield.
The biggest get of the day, in terms of surprise, was quarterback Micah Thomas from Houston. Air Force had recruited him as a quarterback, the position he wanted to play, but the idea of playing with the Utes and getting at least a chance to show what he can do at quarterback was enough to sway Thomas into signing with Utah.
He is the third quarterback in the class, joining Conner Manning out of Lake Forest, Calif., and Brandon Cox, a quarterback out of Pasadena, Calif., who has enrolled.
Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said the line, quarterback and running back were all priority areas the Utes addressed.
"I know we helped ourselves with size and speed," he said. "Size meaning height and length. We signed a bunch of 6-foot-4, 6-5 guys with big wing spans and frames and then we got speed, particularly at running back and defensive back."
While Utah's class ranked only tied for eighth in the Pac-12 according to Rivals.com, Whittingham said he wasn't concerned with such ratings.
"The NFL is full of guys who were not highly recruited or five-star guys," he said. "It comes down to evaluations more than anything else and our own skills and projecting where you think the guy will be down the road."
Remember all the issues Utah had with depth along the offensive line in 2012? Utah made a push to resolve that problem, signing a host of offensive and defensive linemen.
Andrew Albers, an offensive lineman out of Orange Coast Community College, finally made his way to Utah. He originally signed with the Utes as a high school player, then attended junior college.
He should make an immediate impact, as should lineman Sese Ianu (Golden West College) and the Euless, Texas, trio of Salesi Uhatafe, Keio Vaenuku and Sam Tevi.
The running back class is the largest the Utes have signed under Whittingham, with Devontae Booker out of American River College; Troy McCormick out of Houston; Marcus Williams out of Las Vegas; and Dre'Vian Young out of Houston all signing letters of intent.
Booker in particular should compete for playing time right away.
"We think he is in the same mold as other guys like John White who have come in," Whittingham said. "Kelvin York right now is penciled in as the primary ball carrier, but we want Booker to come in and be a good supplement to Kelvin."
The Utes also added two tight ends and two receivers. The receivers, 6-foot-3 Andre Lewis out of Diablo Valley College and X'avier Shepherd out of Lakewood Calif., could contribute right away.
Shepherd missed five games his senior year due to an ankle injury and finished with just 285 yards, but was still a highly recruited athlete after his junior year, in which he had 31 receptions for 472 yards and six touchdowns.Utah loaded up on Texas players, signing the three Trinity High School athletes as well as four others from the state. California was another hot spot, with 11 players.
Early enrollee Uaea Masina (Brighton H.S.), tight end Harrison Handley (Alta) and linebacker Filipo Mokofisi (Woods Cross) represent the local players who signed with the Utes.
The only disappointment for the Utes on Wednesday was corner Marcellus Pippins' decision to go with Washington State instead of sticking to his commitment to the Utes.
Leroy Sitake Tanoai, an offensive lineman out of Sherman Oaks, Calif., and Lowell Lotulelei, a defensive tackle out of Bingham H.S., are committed to Utah but are going on missions before enrolling and therefore aren't a part of the 2013 class.
Lineman Derek Tuimauga, who lettered in 2009 before going on a mission, returns for the 2013 season.
Whittingham also announced fullbacks/tight ends coach Ilaisa Tuiaki has been moved to the defensive line to make way for the hiring of an offensive coach, a hiring that could be announced as soon as Thursday, he said. Former ASU coach Dennis Erickson interviewed with Whittingham on Tuesday in Salt Lake City.
email@example.com Utah's 2013 signees
Player Hometown School Pos. Ht Wgt
Andrew Albers Costa Mesa, Calif. Orange Coast CC OL 6-7 309
Originally signed with Utah before going the JC route
Myron Aiava Westminster, Calif. Westminster H.S. DE 6-5 274
Was captain for the football and volleyball team
Devontae Booker Sacramento, Calif. American River College RB 5-11 199 Rushed for 1,472 yards and 15 TDs in 2012
Tevin Carter Southwest Los Angeles Los Angeles College S 6-2 220 One-time Cal signee has two years to play two
Hipolito Corporan Houston Westside H.S. CB 6-1 172 Touchdown Club Defensive Player of the Year finalist
Brandon Cox Pasadena, Calif. Pasadena H.S. QB 6-2 192 Enrolled early and will participate in spring practice
Harrison Handley Sandy Alta H.S. TE 6-5 217 Local product chose Utes over BYU and Utah State
Dominique Hatfield Los Angeles, Crenshaw H.S. WR/CB 5-10 152 Had eight INTs his senior year, also played WR
Sese Ianu Huntingon Beach, Calif. Golden West College DT 6-2 296 Team captain has two years to play two
Andre Lewis Fairfield, Calif. Diablo Valley College WR 6-3 200 Mid-year transfer has three years to play two
Conner Manning Lake Forest, Calif., El Toro H.S. QB 6-1 200 Pro-style QB threw for 9,449 career passing yards
Uaea Masina Salt Lake City Brighton H.S. LB 6-4 210 Four-year letterman also played basketball, track
Troy McCormick Houston Mayde Creek RB 5-9 159 Rushed for 217 times for 1,768 yards as a senior
Filipo Mokofisi Woods Cross Woods Cross H.S. LB 6-3 229 Expected to play a year before serving a mission
Davion Orphey Compton, Calif. Santa Ana C.C. CB 6-0 187 Physical player has already enrolled at Utah
Greg Reese Camden, N.J. Arizona Western C.C. TE 6-5 236 Did not play last year, has three years to play two
X'avier Shepherd Lakewood, Calif. Lakewood H.S. WR 5-10 170 Missed part of senior year with ankle injury
Sam Tevi Euless, Texas Trinity H.S. DE 6-5 288 Athletic player who played track, basketball and volleyball
Micah Thomas Houston North Shore H.S. QB 6-0 178 Overall strong athlete could play QB or defense
Salesi Uhatafe Euless, Texas Trinity H.S. OT 6-4 319 Didn't give up a sack as a senior, had 117 knockdowns
Keio Vaenuku Euless, Texas Trinity H.S. DE 6-5 278 Had 72 tackles, 7 sacks and 13 tackles for loss as senior
Marcus Williams Las Vegas Durango H.S. RB 5-11 212 Posted a 4.43 in the 40 at the Nike Football Combine
Dre'Vian Young Houston Nimitz H.S. RB 5-9 171 Also excels in track, rushed for 1,140 yards in 2012