It's no secret to national recruiting analysts that the state of Utah pumps out some of the best football talent per capita of any state, but this year's class could reach extraordinary heights.
It's only June, and at least 12 local athletes for the class of 2015 could already be labeled as national prospects — and several other players may also reach that designation.
"I don't think there's any question that this is the best collective talent I've seen out of Utah," said Scout.com national recruiting analyst Brandon Huffman. "What makes this year different compared to other years is the depth. Utah has always had top guys, but the state has never had this level of talent depth at this stage of the process. (It's) really not close."
Leading to the way for the state are a couple of linebackers — Brighton's Osa Masina and Salem Hills' Porter Gustin. Both players have received multiple Pac-12 and Big 12 offers, and have also garnered offers from notable Big Ten and SEC programs. Both are also listed among the top 100 recruits nationally by Scout.com.
"I can't think of a time Utah has had two prospects in our top 100 at this stage or at any stage," Huffman said. "What's amazing about Utah's class is there are others — guys like Christian Folau (East) and Andre James (Herriman) — who are right there near our top 100."
While national experts have heaped early praise on the state's 2015 class, others, such as former local player and coach Riley Jensen, believe this year's class will exceed the already lofty expectations.
Jensen manages the Mountain West Elite camp and subsequently has seen most of the state's top players up close.
"Schools from out of state have taken notice and they'll continue to take more and more notice once these guys progress at the next level," Jensen said of this year's crop. "I believe that most of these players will outperform their expectations, much like most players from the state always do."
Jensen believes what separates Utah prep athletes is their general toughness and work ethic. Those qualities allow them to play above their combine numbers and 40-yard dash times.
"Every coach wants their players to play fast, and you play fast by playing tough and confident," Jensen said. "That's what you have with most players from Utah. You have guys who aren't as fast as others when being timed, but when they're on the field of play — the only place where it matters — then you make up the difference and then some."
While Jensen has taken a role in developing a lot of the local talent since starting his camp, he's quick to credit local coaches and the players themselves.
"The coaches we have here in this state are exceptional," Jensen said. "They really do get the most out of their players and the players — they're just as exceptional with their work ethic and constant desire to get better."
State's top 12 recruits:
Osa Masina, LB, Brighton HS: Masina burst on to the national recruiting scene right after his sophomore season and has seen a steady increase in attention since. The 6-foot-3, 230-pound prospect currently holds offers from most Pac-12 and Big 12 programs along with several Big Ten and SEC programs. He’s rated as the No. 52 overall prospect nationally by Scout.com and No. 58 by Rivals.com.
He is uncommitted and most reports have him looking to sign with an out-of-state program. Should he stay in-state he’s most likely to join his older brother, Uaea Masina, at Utah.
Porter Gustin, LB, Salem Hills HS: Perhaps no in-state recruit has seen his stock rise as rapidly as Gustin’s has over the last few months. A relatively unknown a year ago at this time, the 6-foot-4, 240-pound Salem Hills standout has piled up the offers and will have the luxury of deciding between some of the top collegiate programs nationally. Gustin is ranked as the No. 61 prospect nationally by Scout.com and No. 113 by Rivals.com.
Both Utah and Utah State are still in the hunt, but will have to contend with the likes of USC, Florida State, Ohio State and other national powerhouses to secure his services.
Andre James, OL, Herriman HS: James was the leader of Herriman’s dominant offensive line last season and many programs have taken note. The 6-foot-5, 265-pound prospect currently holds offers from a bevy of Pac-12 and Big 12 schools, including USC, Oregon and Oklahoma. He’s rated as a four-star prospect by both Rivals and Scout.
He is undecided, but has narrowed his favorites to six (Utah, USC, Oregon, UCLA, Ohio State and Oklahoma.)
Christian Folau, LB, East HS: Folau committed to Stanford last July, but is still being pursued by several national and in-state schools hoping to sway Utah’s best inside linebacker prospect. A steady stream of coaches from top programs have visited the 6-foot-1, 240-pound prospect recently despite his Cardinal commitment.
Mufi Hunt, DE, Taylorsville HS: Hunt currently holds 11 offers, according to Scout.com, including BYU, Utah, Utah State, Oregon and Oklahoma. The 6-foot-6, 215-pound Bengal could play at end in a 4-3 system and potentially at weak side linebacker in a 3-4 alignment.
He is uncommitted and has stated a lot of interest in both BYU and Utah.
Dayan Lake, DB, Northridge HS: Lake committed to BYU last summer and has not been swayed despite rising interest from many top national programs, including Alabama and Oregon. The 5-foot-11, 185-pound prospect is rated a four-star prospect by Scout.com and will give the Cougars a rare prime cornerback prospect out of high school should he stay true to his commitment.
Branden Bowen, OL, Corner Canyon HS: Corner Canyon hasn’t been around for long, but it’s already pumping out its first big-time prospect in Bowen. The behemoth 6-foot-7, 310-pound prospect has seen rising interest from multiple Pac-12 and Big 12 programs, several of which have provided offers, along with in-state programs such as Utah and BYU.
Bowen is uncommitted, but has a lot of interest in Utah.
Austin Kafentzis, QB, Jordan HS: Kafentzis committed last summer to Wisconsin, thereby short-circuiting many potential offers that undoubtedly would have come for the record-breaking quarterback. The 6-foot-1, 200-pound prospect is a superb athlete who could play any number of positions at the next level.
James Empey, OL, American Fork HS: The son of former BYU player and coach Mike Empey, James is a three-star prospect and holds offers from Utah, Utah State, Boise State and Washington, according to Rivals.com. Other top programs have shown recent interest and the 6-foot-4, 270-pound athlete's offer list should expand by the end of the summer camp period.
Utah appears to be the early favorite for his services, according to reports.
Gabe Reid, DE, Timpview HS: Reid is a versatile athlete who could play at either linebacker or defensive end at the next level. The 6-foot-2, 240-pound athlete is the son of former BYU linebacker Spencer Reid and holds as many as seven offers currently. BYU, Utah and Utah State have all offered, along with Stanford, Arizona State, Oregon State and Washington State.
Quinn Fabrizio, DB, Alta HS: Fabrizio’s offers include Utah, Utah State, Washington, Washington State and Wisconsin. BYU has shown a lot of interest and could be poised to offer the 6-foot-3, 210-pound prospect shortly. Most of Frabrizio’s offers have been fairly recent and he has yet to tip his hand on which program he’s leaning toward.
Kody Wilstead, QB, Pine View HS: Wilstead has garnered some strong interest lately and currently holds offers from BYU, San Diego State and Louisville, with many other programs showing interest. The 6-foot-6, 215-pound quarterback is surprisingly mobile for his size and that could make him a good fit in BYU’s system. The Cougars are the early favorite for his services.
Email: email@example.com Twitter: @BrandonCGurney
Copyright 2015, Deseret News Publishing Company