SALT LAKE CITY — Utah football’s recruiting efforts literally went South this year. Of the 16 players the Utes picked up on national signing day Wednesday, five are from Florida, two from Louisiana, and one from Texas.
“Overall I feel real good about the class,” said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham. “We were able to make some really good inroads into the South.”
Branching out, he added, paid dividends in a class featuring six defensive backs and three wide receivers — Utah’s two primary areas of emphasis.
Speed, speed and more speed, Whittingham added, was the focal point.
“We feel we match up on the line of scrimmage with anybody in the country,” he said while noting that the Utes proved that in the Pac-12 over the past three years. “ ... But we needed to improve the speed and athleticism on the perimeter and that really is something that jumps out at you when you look at this class.”
The speedy signees include defensive backs Tevin Carter (6-1, 213, L.A. Southwest College), Andre Godfrey (5-10, 186, Miramar, Fla.), Travonne Hobbs (5-9, 175, New Orleans), Casey Hughes (5-11, 181, North Las Vegas, Nev.), Monte Seabrook (6-0, 180, Newberry, Fla.) and Marcus Williams (6-0, 168, Corona, Calif.); as well as wide receivers Kaelin Clay (5-10, 188, Mount San Antonio College), Raelon Singleton (6-3, 190, Crosby, Texas) and Kenric Young (6-2, 180, Gainesville, Fla.).
Whittingham said there were no bad surprises Wednesday and one good surprise. The latter was running back D.J. Law (5-10, 182, Haines City, Fla.), who also reportedly signed with Ole Miss — creating some serious confusion with both schools making announcements.
“We were able to get that commitment,” Whittingham explained. “So that was a very positive thing that happened.”
There was a lot of drama involved, he explained, but Utah compliance officials notified the coach that everything was in order for Law to join the Utes.
Like many of the newcomers in the secondary and at receiver, Law has exceptional speed — as does fellow running back Tavaris Williams (5-10, 180, Fort White, Fla.).
Versatile quarterback Donovan Isom (6-4, 240, Destrehan, La.) also adds to the athleticism of the class. Whittingham describes him as a big, strong kid who is a tireless worker.
“He’s just a guy that is as competitive in nature as anybody we ever recruited,” Whittingham said.
Early signee Jackson Barton (6-7, 291, Brighton High) also received praise. The offensive lineman, who had already enrolled in school, is the program’s highest-rated addition. Utah also increased depth on the defensive line with the signing of Alani Havili-Katoa (6-3, 295, Stansbury High), Lowell Lotulelei (6-1, 310, Bingham High) and Pasoni Tasini (6-2, 260, Snow College).
Whittingham said the Utes have one scholarship remaining, which they plan to give to the best player available — perhaps someone who fell through the cracks on national signing day or a four-year transfer who has graduated.
“We’re just going to wait and see how things shake out,” Whittingham said. “But we know we do have one available and we’ll utilize it somehow, someway.”
Utah’s initial scholarships for 2014 also include eight “push-forward” guys — long snapper Chase Dominguez, tight end Siale Fakailoatonga, punter Tom Hackett, tight end Evan Moeai, linebacker Gionni Paul, defensive end Stevie Tu’ikolovatu and former Wyoming quarterback Jason Thompson.
The Utes picked up five in-state verbal commitments from players who plan to serve LDS Church missions before enrolling. NCAA rules only allow letters of intent to be signed for the upcoming year.
Those announcing intentions to eventually join the program include Mountain Crest defensive tackle Kyle Christiansen, Kearns running back Amone Finau, Pine View linebacker Thor Katoa, Cottonwood linebacker Howard Pututau and Highland defensive tackle Pita Tonga.
EXTRA POINTS: Whittingham said that starting quarterback Travis Wilson, whose career is in jeopardy because of an intracranial artery injury, will undergo a battery of tests in about three weeks to update his status. A verdict beyond that, however, won’t be known for another three months. ... Assistant coaches Dennis Erickson, Kalani Sitake, Brian Johnson and Morgan Scalley were credited by Whittingham for Utah’s successful recruiting efforts in the South. ... When informed that some scouting services had Utah’s recruiting class ranked near the bottom of the Pac-12, Whittingham retorted that the Utes ranked near the top of the conference in terms of players in the NFL — a better indicator, he said, in terms of recruiting success. ... Whittingham explained that Utah signed Carter and Clay, who have just one year of eligibility remaining, to fill immediate needs and are worth the investment.
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