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Utah football reels in its highest-rated recruiting class ever, ranking 29th nationally and 4th in the Pac-12

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Kyle Whittingham, as Utah faces Oregon in the Pac-12 football championship game in Santa Clara, Calif., on Friday Dec. 6, 2019.

If the COVID-19 pandemic allows spring football practice to happen come March, the cornerstone of the University of Utah football program’s recruiting class will be there.

Peter Costelli, a four-star quarterback from Mission Viejo (Calif.) High School, told The Salt Lake Tribune late Tuesday evening that he will enroll for the spring semester starting Jan. 19, which means he would be available for spring ball, which is likely to start in early or mid-March.

247sports was first to report that Costelli, one of 18 recruits that signed and submitted national letters of intent Wednesday with the Utes, would enroll early.

With Costelli as the centerpiece, Utah has secured its highest-rated recruiting class ever, ranked 29th nationally and fourth in the Pac-12 with an average rating of .8738, according to 247sports. Costelli is one of three four-star commits for the Utes, joining a pair of linebackers in Oaks Christian (Calif.) School’s Ethan Calvert and Saint Louis (Hawaii) School’s Mason Tafuga.

“Peter’s an athletic quarterback that displays excellent arm strength and accuracy,” Utah offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig said in a Twitter video produced by verified @Utah_Football. “His worth ethic and football intelligence will put him in a position to be an immediate-impact player for the Utes.”

Among the NLIs that arrived Wednesday, the most-significant one was from Calvert, who is rated as the No. 74 prospect nationally in the class of 2021 and the No. 4 linebacker in the country according to 247sports.

Calvert offered a verbal commitment to Utah on Nov. 12, essentially putting the bow on what has been a successful recruiting cycle in the middle of a global health crisis, which has led to almost no face-to-face contact with any of the recruits.

“He’s everything you’re looking for in a linebacker,” Utah linebackers coach Colton Swan said. “He’s fast, he’s physical, he’s athletic, he’s smart, he’s tough and he has great instincts for the football.”

Costelli’s decision to enroll early stems from the fact that high school sports in the state of California have been delayed yet again. Costelli’s previous intentions were to play his senior season at Mission Viejo beginning Jan. 8, but that date has been backed up to at least mid-January with COVID-19 cases surging in California.

“With everything happening in California, everything is getting pushed back more and more, so it seemed like the best thing to do was enroll early,” Costelli told The Tribune on Tuesday evening. “It’s really frustrating. I wanted to play this season with my team, play for Coach [Chad) Johnson], it was a tough decision to make.”

Costelli’s inclusion for spring practice makes the quarterback situation at Utah all the more interesting. The NCAA froze the eligibility clock this fall thanks to the pandemic, so in theory, Costelli could join Jake Bentley, who is currently a graduate transfer, Cameron Rising, who would be a fourth-year sophomore in 2021, and Cooper Justice, now a true freshman.

Rising beat out Bentley for the starting job out of fall camp, but was lost for the season on the 14th offensive play of the season on Nov. 21 for USC with a shoulder injury.

Utes head coach Kyle Whittingham said earlier this week that Rising had successful shoulder surgery and is starting to go through rehabilitation, but that the injury is severe enough that he doubts Rising would be ready for spring practice.

“I’m obviously going to go up there, do the best I can, and maybe there’s a chance to start,” said Costelli, who still has to finish two high school courses before enrolling. “That’s on me to perform, but I know I’m going to go there and learn from some very good quarterbacks.”

Utah can still sign additional recruits this week as the early signing period runs through Friday. The regular signing period for Division I and II football begins on Feb. 3.

UTAH FOOTBALL 2021 RECRUITING CLASS

Cole Bishop, 6-3, 200, LB; from Fayetteville, Ga. (Starr’s Mill High School)

Ethan Calvert, 6-3, 230, LB; from Westlake 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 Faalu, 6-4, 315, OG; from Bothell, Wash. (North Creek HS)

Jonny Fanaika, 6-3, 245, DE; from Pleasant Grove (Pleasant Grove HS)

David Fotu, 6-4, 299, DT; from Ephraim (Snow College)

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)

Simote Pepa, 6-3, 320, DL; from South Jordan (Bingham HS)

Viliami Pouha, 6-2, 230, DE; from South Jordan (Bingham HS)

Trey Reynolds, 6-2, 235, LB; from Queen Creek, Ariz. (Queen Creek 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)

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