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Deseret News recruiting grades in for BYU, Utah and Utah State

Published: Wednesday, Feb. 5 2014 10:15 p.m. MST

BYU Head Coach Bronco Mendenhall works the sidelines of an NCAA college football game in Reno, Nev., on Saturday, Nov. 30, 2013. (AP Photo/Cathleen Allison) (Cathleen Allison, AP) BYU Head Coach Bronco Mendenhall works the sidelines of an NCAA college football game in Reno, Nev., on Saturday, Nov. 30, 2013. (AP Photo/Cathleen Allison) (Cathleen Allison, AP)

Utah’s three FBS programs announced their 2014 recruiting classes on national letter of intent day Wednesday. Each school scored some big hits and had some some notable misses. As always, coaches from BYU, Utah and Utah State crowed about their classes — confidently stating they received exactly what they worked tirelessly to get.

So what’s the truth?

No one can accurately assess exactly how each class will pan out. Not the coaches. Not recruiting experts — locally or nationally. No one.

What can be judged is how each program fared in signing their top targets and how effectively they recruited against top regional schools and rival programs. It can also be somewhat judged by how each school dealt with filling immediate needs within their respective programs.

So, how did each school grade out with the stated flaws in accurate evaluation? Deseret News recruiting guru Brandon Gurney does his best in breaking it down and assigning grades.

BYU

The Cougars didn't have a lot of offers to give out, but scored big with limited available scholarships. Coach Bronco Mendenhall and his staff also did well in filling immediate needs at wide receiver and linebacker.

Perhaps the biggest signing was Grossmont Junior College receiver Nick Kurtz. The 6-foot-6 standout is already on campus and turned down offers from the likes of USC, Oregon and LSU to join the Cougar program.

BYU also scored big in signing UTEP transfer Jordan Leslie and former Oregon Duck Devon Blackmon. All three players will be looked at to contribute immediately and should boost the overall athleticism at the receiver position considerably.

Outside linebacker has become the marquee position in Provo and BYU scored big with the signings of Fred Warner, Tyler Cook, Sione Takitaki and Isaiah Nacua, among others. All four were courted by Pac-12 programs and should do well in continuing the great play established by Kyle Van Noy.

The Cougars were also able to sway key recruits late in the process — something rarely accomplished by the staff. Most notable was convincing outside linebacker/defensive end recruit Uriah Leiatuaua to forgo his Stanford commitment in the 11th hour.

All in all it's hard to poke many holes in BYU's class. Yes, it lacks a good quarterback, running back and includes relatively few immediate contributors at offensive line and defensive back. The reason is a simple lack of available offers with few players graduating at those positions.

Grade: A-

Utah

Utah's class included some typically top talent, but it's hard to make the case the overall talent surpassed, or even matched, what Kyle Whittingham and staff have attracted since joining the Pac-12 in 2011. Losing has its consequences and Utah's failure to reach a bowl game bore out with this year's class.

Regardless of the misses, Utah's signees did include a lot of talent starting with Brighton offensive lineman Jackson Barton. Many have argued Barton will be the top in-state recruit for 2014 and be an immediate contributor as a freshman.

The Utes also scored big in signing other top in-state talent, such as Stansbury Park defensive tackle Allan Havili and Kearns linebacker Amone Finau. Whittingham has long celebrated his ability to lure the state's top talent, and he once again scored big in-state with this year's class.

Utah's group is also full of promising defensive backs — a big need for the program stemming from last season and the graduation of top contributors, including Keith McGill. The Utes went far and wide to attract top talent from Florida and Louisiana, such as Andre Godfrey and Travonne Hobbs, among others.

Missing from Utah's class are key battles won against top Pac-12 rivals. The bar for Utah recruiting has been raised with Pac-12 affiliation and it's hard to argue it reached that bar with a class that's ranked near, or at the bottom, of the Pac-12 conference by national recruiting services.

Grade: C

Utah State

The Aggies are now known as consistent winners, and that fact is playing well with their recruiting efforts.

The days are long gone when Utah State was simply a fall-back program for recruits who didn't receive offers from either Utah or BYU. Recruits are now committing to the Aggies without hesitation and even after being offered by the Cougars or Utes.

The Aggies were able to convince East tight end Joe Tukuafu late in the process to forgo his Utah commitment and sign with them. Doing as much is a new, and promising, development for Utah State recruiting, as a whole.

Matt Wells, and his staff, were big players in the local market — landing top talent such as Stansbury Park's Chase Christiansen (LB), Lone Peak's Baron Gajkowski (QB) and East's Preston Curtis (WR) among many others.

The class also includes eight junior college transfers who will be asked to make immediate contributions.

Grade: B

Email: bgurney@desnews.com Twitter: @BrandonCGurney

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