SUU football: Thunderbirds draw upon homegrown talent on Letter of Intent Day

Published: Wednesday, Feb. 1 2012 2:00 p.m. MST

CEDAR CITY — Southern Utah's signing class during Wednesday's National Signing Day was mostly local talent, as the Thunderbirds inked 20 football players from Utah.

"One of the things I think a player can gain from is the certain amount of pride they have in representing their state," Southern Utah coach Ed Lamb said. "And when we go around playing other schools, that means something."

In all, 28 players signed on to play with Southern Utah, a number that includes one junior college signee.

The Thunderbirds' class consists of 11 on defense, including six defensive linemen of which four come from Utah high schools: Kole Afu and Shad Enis (Alta), Rhett Bird (North Sanpete) and Filipe Fifita-Sitake (Mountain View).

Among the 11 signed players on the other side of the ball, five are offensive linemen, including three that played their prep ball in Utah: Jason Brimhall (American Fork), Evan Ross (Fremont) and Spencer Rudolph (Davis).

The offensive group also includes a pair of quarterbacks, two wide receivers — Cole Payne (Orem High) and Martavius Redmond (West Jordan High) — and two running backs.

Two Las Vegas recruits — Malik Brown and 315-pound defensive lineman Peterson Taeao — will play for the Thunderbirds.

"We're super excited to have him with us," Lamb said of Taeao, who also had offers from Houston and UNLV.

Four players are coming from high schools in California, including 335-pound offensive lineman Kyle Donaldson, a junior-college transfer from Orange Coast College in Pacifica, Calif. The Thunderbirds are also getting Austin Young, a 6-5 quarterback from Colfax (Calif.) High. The only other quarterback in this signing class is Anthony Sattiewhite from Ogden High.

Both running backs that signed with SUU won't have to travel far. Christian Taele played at Spanish Fork High, while Brian Scott was at Hurricane High.

Lamb said Scott, who is also the reigning 3A state wrestling champion at 215 pounds, will fit in well.

"He's a great player and a great kid; he really led that Hurricane team. He's a real fighter," Lamb said.

Lamb is excited about how Taele will fit in the T-Birds' backfield.

"He's tremendously versatile," Lamb said. "His strength is really as a receiver out of the backfield, and that really fits what we do."

Three other players — all from St. George — will be playing even closer to home. Desert Hills High teammates Porter Harris and linebacker Mike Needham will both join the Thunderbirds, as will long snapper Kolton Donovan (Pine View High).

Harris, who is also the state triple-jump champion, played quarterback in high school, but will probably play defensive back for the Thunderbirds, Lamb said.

"He's an excellent athlete and a fantastic student," he said.

Sione Fukofuka, a 6-5, 250-pound player with a yet-to-be-determined position, comes to Southern Utah via Liahona High in Nuku'alofa, Tonga.

Once the whole recruiting picture came together, Lamb said he and his staff were pleased.

"I don't really get the chance to see how a class is going to look until one or two days before (signing day), and when I saw it, I was amazed at how many good in-state players we got," he said.

2012 SUU signing class

Kole Afu, Alta HS, Draper 6-2, 240 DL. Earned first team all-region honors.

J.T. Anderson, Layton HS, Layton 6-2, 165 DB. Two-time first-team all-region performer, and second-team all-state in 2011. 14 interceptions in final two years of high school, running three back for touchdowns.

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