Kyle Whittingham pleased with Utah’s highest-ranked football recruiting class, but he’s not finished

‘The cycle never ends, there’s never a day off in recruiting,’ the Ute coach says

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Utes quarterback Cameron Rising (7)as the Utah Utes host the USC Trojans, NCAA football at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Nov. 21, 2020.

The early signing period for Division I football began on Wednesday, and the University of Utah came away with a significant haul.

The Utes signed 18 recruits to national letters of intent, including the No. 1 quarterback on their big board, four-star Peter Costelli, and a top-75 national recruit in four-star inside linebacker Ethan Calvert. In total, those 18 signees equate to Utah’s highest-rated class ever, per the 247sports composite.

Kyle Whittingham addressed his latest recruiting with reporters Thursday morning, and his feelings were succinct. There were no surprises on Wednesday. Things went as he expected, he and his coaching staff addressed a lot of needs, but the work of recruiting is always fluid.

“The cycle never ends, there’s never a day off in recruiting,” Whittingham said. “It’s constant and our assistant coaches should be commended for their hard work. They’ve done a good job as always targeting the right guys, and getting our type of guys into the program.”

The early signing period runs through Friday, and in speaking to the every-day nature of recruiting, Whittingham would not rule out signing more recruits, whether that be this week, once the regular signing period begins Feb. 3, or even into the summer.

More specifically, Whittingham is well-aware that his quarterback situation for 2021 is up in the air.

If the COVID-19 pandemic allows spring practice to start in early or mid-March, Whittingham has already expressed doubt that Cameron Rising will be ready after suffering a season-ending shoulder injury in the Nov. 21 opener vs. USC. Rising had successful surgery and has begun his rehabilitation regimen.

Jake Bentley is a graduate transfer, but has the option to return to Salt Lake City for another season given that the NCAA froze the eligibility clock this season due to the pandemic.

If Bentley leaves, Costelli would be the only scholarship quarterback on the roster this spring, which feeds the notion Whittingham needs to hit the transfer portal for quarterback help. Even if Bentley returns, there is still an argument to be made that Utah needs another quarterback, simply for depth and competition purposes, if Rising is indeed out for the spring.

“I’m going to tell you that there’s a really good likelihood that we’ll continue to try and address that position,” Whittingham said. “I think we’re going to be able to have a good situation by spring ball.”

Aside from quarterback, Whittingham pointed to running back as a position of need moving forward, which makes sense given what has transpired recently.

On Monday, junior Devin Brumfield and sophomore Jordan Wilmore announced their respective decisions to transfer within two hours of each other. That leaves Pac-12 Offensive Freshman of the Year candidate Ty Jordan and redshirt freshman Micah Bernard as the only scholarship running backs on the roster with at least one more game to play, Saturday morning vs. Washington State (11:30 a.m., Fox Sports 1).

Utah received an NLI on Wednesday from three-star Tampa-area running back Ricky Parks. That will add depth to the position, but it won’t be surprising if the Utes go shopping for more backfield help.

Between Brumfield, Wilmore and redshirt junior TJ Green, Utah has had three running backs leave the program in the last two months.