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High school football: Utah is full of top-end talent

Published: Saturday, July 4 2015 6:31 p.m. MDT

Brighton High sophomore Jackson Barton was a dominant force
for the Bengals last season and has already verbally committed to play his
college football for the University of Utah. (, Randy Aldridge) Brighton High sophomore Jackson Barton was a dominant force for the Bengals last season and has already verbally committed to play his college football for the University of Utah. (, Randy Aldridge)

The 2013 prep high school season is upon us, and with it a host of top talent raring to show their best stuff.

The state of Utah is again full of top-shelf talent from Cache Valley in the north down to Dixie in the south and everywhere in between. Many of the top players already have multiple scholarship offers in hand while others are intent in proving their worth to top programs.

Those seeking to see the top in-state prospects likely won’t have to look far.

“Every year I become more and more impressed with the talent a relatively small state like Utah produces,” said scout.com recruiting analyst Brandon Huffman. “The state produces more college talent per capita than any state I can think of in the Western region, and it’s only getting better from what we can tell.”

Korey Rush of East loses his helmet as Bountiful faces East in high school football in Bountiful, Friday, Oct. 5, 2012.  (Ravell Call, Deseret News) Korey Rush of East loses his helmet as Bountiful faces East in high school football in Bountiful, Friday, Oct. 5, 2012. (Ravell Call, Deseret News)

Indeed, Utah consistently lands in the top five of players per capita earning college scholarships, according to reports from rivals and other services.

So who are the top in-state players to keep on eye on during the coming season?

First and foremost would be Mr. Football himself, Austin Kafentzis. The Jordan High quarterback returns for his junior season on the heels of verbally committing to play for Gary Andersen at Wisconsin. Kafentzis set the field on fire last season, but will have to adjust to a relatively new offensive front.

Other top prospects committed to programs out-of-state include East running back Ula Tolutau (Wisconsin); East defensive end Korey Rush (Arizona State); Highland defensive tackle Bryan Mone (Michigan); and East linebacker Christian Folau, who recently committed to Stanford.

Many of the state’s top prospects are staying in state, including six who are already committed to sign with the University of Utah.

Bingham tight end Dalton Schultz looks on during the Utah State High School 5A Football semifinal between Syracuse and Bingham in Rice-Eccles Stadium, Thursday, Nov. 8, 2012. (Ben Brewer, Deseret News) Bingham tight end Dalton Schultz looks on during the Utah State High School 5A Football semifinal between Syracuse and Bingham in Rice-Eccles Stadium, Thursday, Nov. 8, 2012. (Ben Brewer, Deseret News)

Those headed to Utah are headlined by Brighton offensive tackle Jackson Barton and Granger offensive lineman Kenyon Frison. Others committed to Utah include Stansbury defensive tackle Allan Havili, Mountain Crest offensive lineman Kyle Christiansen, Amone Finau from Kearns and East tight end Joe Tukuafu.

Cougar fans will want to check out Pleasant Grove defensive tackle Zac Dawe, who committed to BYU last year.

Many players with scholarship offers have yet to decide, but could be deciding shortly. This group is headlined by Bingham tight end Dalton Schultz, who holds around 30 offers nationally. Other uncommitted players include, but aren’t limited to, Syracuse defensive back Kavika Fonua, who will decide between BYU and Utah; Brighton linebacker Isaiah Kaufusi, who is a so-called "soft commit" to BYU; American Fork offensive lineman James Empey, who claims offers from Utah and Utah State, and Timpview defensive end Isaiah Nacua, who has offers from numerous Pac-12 programs, including Utah.

Jordan's Quarterback Austin Kafentzis scores a touchdown as Jordan and Syracuse play Friday, Nov. 16, 2012, for the 5A State title at Rice Eccles Stadium.  (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News) Jordan's Quarterback Austin Kafentzis scores a touchdown as Jordan and Syracuse play Friday, Nov. 16, 2012, for the 5A State title at Rice Eccles Stadium. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)

Many exciting play-makers return for 2013 who will undoubtedly be worth following. The top play-makers in the state look to be Granger running back Tani Lahau’li, Lone Peak quarterback Baron Gadjkowski, Alta receiver Mack Richards, Jordan running back Clay Moss and Orem receiver Nolan Gray, among many others.

Indeed, the state will offer many exciting players — some well-known and others looking to make a big impression in 2013.

Email: bgurney@desnews.com, Twitter: @BrandonCGurney

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