Kyle Whittingham and the rest of the University of Utah football coaching staff have not come face-to-face with a high school recruit in months, a byproduct of the ongoing NCAA recruiting dead period in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
That is important to note because, despite the vast majority of Utah’s football recruiting not being done in-person this cycle, the staff still managed to put together what is projected as its highest-rated recruiting class ever.
When the early signing period for Division I football begins on Wednesday, Whittingham expects to have at least 16 high school recruits sign their National Letters of Intent. As of Friday morning, according to 247sports.com, Utah’s recruiting class is ranked fifth in the Pac-12, 31st nationally, and has an average rating of .8755.
That recruiting success comes after last year’s breakthrough class, which was ranked fifth in the Pac-12, 29th nationally and had an average rating of .8652.
“We feel great about our class,” Whittingham said Tuesday on a Zoom call with reporters. “We think we’ve put together another outstanding group of young men, and hope to get them all signed in eight days. We’re still going to have some [scholarships] left over and with the movement that will most likely take place, you always want to have a few in your pocket to address needs and things that arise.”
The movement Whittingham is referring to could be NCAA Division I Council legislation that would allow a one-time transfer for student-athletes during their careers without suffering the penalty of sitting out a season.
A vote on that legislation is expected in January, with enactment coming on Aug. 1. Under the legislation, athletes would have to notify their schools of a transfer by May 1, with an exception extending the deadline to July 1 if there is an end-of-season coaching change or the non-renewal of a scholarship.
The cornerstone of this Utah recruiting class is four-star Mission Viejo (Calif.) High School quarterback Peter Costelli, who visited the Salt Lake City campus, once in the summer of 2019 and again during the 2019 football season. Costelli offered a verbal commitment to the Utes on April 11.
Costelli intends to play his delayed, truncated senior season at Mission Viejo, which will begin Jan. 15 at traditional Southern California power Long Beach Poly.
UTAH’S PROJECTED 2021 RECRUITING CLASS
Cole Bishop, 6-3, 200, LB; from Fayetteville, Ga. (Starr’s Mill High School)
Ethan Calvert, 6-3, 230, LB; from West Lake Village, Calif. (Oaks Christian School)
Makai Cope, 6-2, 190, WR; from Culver City, Calif. (Culver City HS)
Peter Costelli, 6-3, 205, QB; from Mission Viejo, Calif. (Mission Viejo HS)
Jonah Elliss, 6-2, 210, LB; Moscow, Idaho (Moscow Senior HS)
Koli Falu, 6-4, 315, OG; from Bothell, Wash. (North Creek HS)
Tevita Fotu, 6-4, 299, DT; from Ephraim (Snow College)
Trey Reynolds, 6-2, 235, LB; from Queen Creek, Ariz. (Queen Creek HS)
Velltray Jefferson, 6-4, 230, ATH; from Fresno, Calif. (Edison HS)
Elisha Lloyd, 5-10, 175, CB; from San Marcos, Calif. (Mission Hills HS)
Ricky Parks, 5-10, 192, RB; from Tampa (Gaither HS)
Viliami Pouha, 6-2, 230, DE; from South Jordan (Bingham HS)
Darrien Stewart, 6-2, 190, S; from Las Vegas (Desert Pines HS)
Mason Tafuga, 6-1, 210, LB; from Honolulu (Saint Louis School)
Isaac Vaha, 6-7, 230, TE; from Pleasant Grove (Pleasant Grove HS)
Zereoue Williams, 6-8, 248, OT; from Phoenix (Mountain Pointe HS)