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Utah Utes football: Utes pleased with their first Pac-12 recruiting class

Published: Tuesday, June 30 2015 2:48 a.m. MDT

Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham speaks to boosters and Ute fans during Wednesday's Letter of Intent signing party.     (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News) Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham speaks to boosters and Ute fans during Wednesday's Letter of Intent signing party. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — National Signing Day proved to be the same thing, only different, for the Utah Utes.

"First thing I'll say is recruiting in the Pac-12 Conference is a very competitive situation," said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham. "It's what we expected it to be — but much different as far as years past."

Even so, he thought it was a good day overall for the Utes. They received 16 National Letters of Intent by Wednesday evening, adding them to a pair of freshmen who have already enrolled in school, and a mid-year junior college transfer.

The 19 overall signees include nine players from Utah, six from California, three from Texas and one from Louisiana.

University of Utah recruits Nate Fakahafua (left) from Highland High and Harvey Langi, from Bingham High, sign their National Letters of Intent.  (Tom Smart, Deseret News) University of Utah recruits Nate Fakahafua (left) from Highland High and Harvey Langi, from Bingham High, sign their National Letters of Intent. (Tom Smart, Deseret News)

"We're excited about what this class will add to our team transitioning into the Pac-12 Conference," Whittingham said.

The Utes, who will officially join the league on July 1, added 16 freshmen and three junior college players to the roster. Whittingham praised his assistant coaches for identifying and targeting recruits in the areas they cover. He was also pleased with how the current players helped sell the program when the newcomers made their official visits.

Many were familiar faces. The Utes signed nine in-state players.

"We did very well in the state of Utah," said Whittingham, who plans to recruit the local area with even more manpower in the future.

Another success Wednesday was the signing of running backs Harvey Langi (Bingham HS), John White (Los Angeles Harbor College) and Jarrell Oliver (Dulles HS, Texas).

"Our only real position of immediate need that we had to get addressed was running back, and I thought we came away with three very good ones," Whittingham said of the trio enlisted to offset the graduation losses of Matt Asiata and Eddie Wide, as well as the career-ending series of concussions suffered by Sausan Shakerin.

"It was the most pressing need position-wise going into this class," Whittingham added.

Langi, who is the only one currently enrolled at the U., is already making an impression. Whittingham said the reigning 5A MVP is looking, running, moving and lifting like a fifth-year senior in offseason conditioning.

"He's a very talented, very physical kid," Whittingham noted.

Langi, like the other two, is on even footing to compete for a starting job next fall. Whittingham called it a "wide-open competition."

White is expected to be on campus in the next 7-10 days, while Oliver won't be in the mix until summer.

After restocking the running back position, the Utes filled the rest of their recruiting class by signing the "best players available."

The harvest included a pair of freshmen from Texas who could compete for the starting safety spots, vacated by the graduation of Justin Taplin-Ross and Brian Blechen's move to linebacker.

Whittingham noted that Joseph Bryant (6-4, 194) and Eric Rowe (6-1, 177) will have an opportunity to play right away. So, too, will junior college transfers Keith McGill and Anthony Denham. McGill is a defensive back and Denham is a big-play receiver.

Another intriguing signee is athletic wide receiver/defensive back Quinton Pedroza (Chino HS, Calif.). He de-committed from Arizona State and signed with the Utes.

"That was a pleasant surprise," Whittingham said while noting that Utah put 7-9 "long-shot" offers out and were able to sign Pedroza and Denham.

The Utes came up empty on several others situations, including cornerback Ryan Henderson, who de-committed from Utah and signed with USC instead.

Such may be a way of life in the Pac-12.

Whittingham said the new recruiting climate means many decisions will go right down to the wire.

"It's not over yet," he said while explaining that the Utes plan to utilize all 25 of their initial scholarships this year by August.

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