As we did yesterday with BYU, today we’ll take a look at how the University of Utah’s 2017 recruiting class is shaping up so far in terms of the needs the team will have in the fall.
While every team loses impact players each year, the Utes will certainly be graduating a bunch of players who were major pieces during the 2016 season, not to mention juniors Marcus Williams and Garett Bolles, who declared for the NFL draft.
It’s somewhat uncommon for freshmen to make a major impact in their first college season, but Utah has a number of players committed from the junior college ranks at positions of need who are primed to contribute right away.
Positions are listed in the order in which the Utes will likely end up having the most urgent needs.
Defensive back: Utah will almost be starting over in the secondary in 2017 thanks to the graduations of Brian Allen, Dominique Hatfield, Reggie Porter and Justin Thomas, along with the departure of Williams.
Although the Utes will have a few players with some previous experience, they’ve also targeted junior college prospects who are expected to compete for major playing time this fall. Corrion Ballard from Blinn College in Texas has already joined the program, while Tareke Lewis of Riverside City College is committed.
Additionally, four-star prospect Jaylon Johnson, considered one of the nation’s Top 100 players, chose to commit to Utah despite holding offers from schools such as USC and Oklahoma, among many others.
The Utes will likely look to gain commitments from one or two more defensive backs, but they’re off to a good start in trying to replace a group that became known as “Pick Lake City.”
Offensive line: Here again, Utah will have major losses. In addition to Bolles bolting for the NFL, stalwarts Isaac Asiata, J.J. Dielman, Nick Nowakowski and Sam Tevi will graduate.
A couple of players such as Darrin Paulo and Johnny Capra could fill some of the void, but the Utes are loading up in this recruiting class. Junior college transfer Jordan Agasiva has joined the program, while California’s Orlando Umana and American Fork’s Michael Richardson are committed.
Look for Utah to add one or two more commitments along the offensive line.
Wide receiver: As much as fans are excited about what they’ve heard concerning new offensive coordinator Troy Taylor’s passing attack, the team will be losing two key wide receivers from 2016, seniors Tim Patrick and Cory Butler-Byrd.
Two high schoolers are thus far set to join the program. Tyquez Hampton of Texas (grew up in Florida) began classes this week. Jaylen Dixon, also of Texas, is committed.
The Utes could add one more wide receiver to their class.
Defensive end: Utah always seems to reload on the defensive line from year to year, but it’ll be losing the program’s all-time sack leader in Hunter Dimick, as well as the athletic Pita Taumoepenu. Thus far, no defensive ends are committed for 2017.
Tight end: Evan Moeai will be graduating, and there’s still some uncertainty whether or not Siale Fakailoatonga will receive an extra year of eligibility after going down in the 2016 season opener and missing the whole season.
Ben Moos, the son of Washington State athletic director Bill Moos, is committed to the program.
Kicker: Star Andy Phillips is gone, and while the Utes don’t look as though they’ll receive a commitment from a kicker, they will see the return of former Bingham standout Chayden Johnston from an LDS mission.
Defensive tackle: Former Snow College Badger Pasoni Tasini will be graduating, but Utah has received a commitment from current Badger John Penisini. Bingham star Jay Tufele has the Utes in his final list of five schools, along with BYU, USC, Michigan and Ohio State.
Running back: Joe Williams is graduating, but Utah doesn’t currently have any players committed at the position.
Quarterback: The Utes have two scholarship quarterbacks in Troy Williams and Tyler Huntley. They’ll likely get all the snaps in 2017, but Utah will also add Jason Shelley of Texas. He’ll provide more depth, and will be able to develop behind Williams and Huntley.