Keith Johnson, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — Utah didn't get every signature it wanted on National Signing Day
Even so, things weren't all that sour. The big picture, in fact, was kind of sweet.
"It's relative," Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said before acknowledging the program's recent Bowl Championship Series appearance is paying dividends.
"We definitely are feeling the impact of the Sugar Bowl," he explained. "This year more than last year."
Among the 24 letters-of-intent the Utes received by Wednesday afternoon were signed documents by highly touted recruits such as Fullerton College offensive lineman John Cullen, Hawaii high school linebacker V.J. Fehoko and Snow College All-American defensive lineman James Aiono.
They're among several notable athletes including quarterbacks Brian Blechen (Moorpark HS, Calif.) and Tyler Shreve (Redlands East Valley HS, Calif.), as well as wide receivers Dres Anderson (J.W. North HS, Calif.), Terrell Reese (Brenham HS, Texas) and Kenneth Scott (Colony HS, Calif.).
Other high school stars headed to Utah include offensive lineman Zach Bolton (Klein Forest HS, Texas), running back Princeton Collins (Westwood HS, Texas), defensive back Wykie Freeman (Pasadena Memorial HS, Texas), linebacker Jacoby Hale (Beaumont Central HS, Texas), defensive end Joe Kruger (Pleasant Grove HS), defensive back Damian Payne (Klein Forest HS, Texas), running back Lucky Radley (Taft HS, Calif.), defensive back Joseph Smith (Norco HS, Calif.), athlete Sione Tupouata (Fremont HS, Calif.) and defensive back Michael Walker (Brenham HS, Texas).
Missionaries — returning and departing — and two junior college transfers other than Aiono and Cullen round out the class.
Defensive back Mike Honeycutt (Timpview HS) and tight end Westlee Tonga (Spring HS, Texas) are back after serving LDS Church missions, while tight end Sefa Tanoai (Pleasant Grove HS) and linebacker Ofa Latu (Timpview HS) are slated to be "sign-and-send" guys.
Snow College linemen Star Lotulelei and Ron Tongaonevai each have three years of eligibility remaining.
Whittingham said all of the newcomers will compete for playing time right away.
Utah's recruiting class includes four players rated as "four stars" by Rivals.com, plus 16 earning "three star" designation.
Texas and California have eight players apiece, while seven are from Utah and one from Hawaii.
The Lone Star State has been a particular area of emphasis under Whittingham.
"There's a lot of talent in that state and we're going to recruit it heavily," he said at Wednesday afternoon's press conference officially announcing the signings.
An additional signee may be added before the class is complete. Whittingham said an unidentified recruit is "still in flux" and only time will tell if he's signed soon or not until fall camp.
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