What happens this week in the first year of the NCAA’s early signing period for football won’t take all of the luster off the traditional February signing period. However, it will take some anxiety off coaching staffs such as Utah’s.
Utah’s early signing class this week likely will not feature an overwhelming volume of recruits, and instead will serve as the table setting ahead of February. At least three of the Utes’ recruits who have announced verbal commitments to the program plan to wait until February to sign a National Letter of Intent.
“I think there’s a lot fewer just nationwide than I had expected,” Utes coach Kyle Whittingham said Thursday. “I expected maybe 50 percent signing that day and 50 percent the next one, but I think it’s going to be more like 70-30 that are going to wait. Now there are some schools that are going to sign everybody, all their commits, on the 20th next week. But I think that’s the exception rather than the rule.”
Highly touted quarterback prospect Jack Tuttle has shown no signs of wavering from his stated plan to sign this week, graduate from high school early and enroll at Utah this winter. The 6-foot-4, 200-pound San Diego resident committed to the Utes in December 2016.
Tuttle repeatedly has reaffirmed his pledge despite being courted by programs such as Alabama and USC. Tuttle said in July he would be coming to Utah unless “something catastrophic” happened and also said he wouldn’t be going on any other official visits.
“I haven’t done any other visits, I promise,” Tuttle said in October.
Herriman High senior offensive lineman Jaren Kump committed to the Utes in October. The 6-6, 261-pound three-star tackle told The Tribune he wouldn’t be taking any recruiting visits other than to Utah, but he plans to wait until February to sign alongside his high school teammates. He’ll also serve an LDS Church mission after his high school graduation.
“It’s not something I always planned,” Kump said about signing in February. “It’s just something I kind of talked about with my teammates. My plan was to sign with all of them so at the signing table it’s all of us football players. It looks really cool and it will be kind of a cool moment to sign with my teammates. I talked to coach [Jim] Harding and coach [Justin] Ena about it. They were totally cool about it, about me signing in February. That’s what I’m still planning on doing.”
Delon Hurt, a three-star wide receiver for Servite High School in Anaheim, Calif., also plans to wait until February to sign with the Utes. Highland offensive lineman Hunter Lotulelei, the cousin of Star and Lowell Lotulelei, committed to the Utes in June 2016. Lotulelei told ESPN 700′s “Utezone Radio” on Wednesday that he also planned to wait until February to sign.
“Some of the players just want to sign with their friends and teammates that may not be signing early,” Whittingham said. “So it’s kind of a mixed bag of what you’re getting — the reasons why you’d sign early or not. The one thing that’s common is that all mid-year transfers will sign early, all the mid-year guys because they need to be here in January. The guys that aren’t mid-year, kind of different mindsets and different thought processes for those guys.”
THREE WHO MIGHT SIGN EARLY
Jack Tuttle, QB, Mission Hills High School, (San DIego) • One of the top passers in the nation had his pick of schools but fell in love with Utah last year.
Malone Mataele, WR/RB/CB, Santa Margarita Catholic High School (Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif.) • A versatile playmaker with speed that could be used on offense, defense or in the return game.
Terrell Perriman, WR, Miami Central High School (Miami) • A talented slot receiver who committed in November, he’ll bring a lot of quickness and a highly competitive nature.