By the end of national letter of intent day Wednesday, the University of Utah had signed a long list of promising football recruits, but it was hardly a glamorous group. Just look at them. No running backs. No wide receivers. OK, two quarterbacks, but one is a gamble with size enough to play elsewhere.
"It's a blue-collar group," says Utah coach Ron McBride. "We didn't go for the skill guys. We went after guys who will hit people, guys who bring a lunch pail to work."Of the 27 recruits that Utah signed, 20 of them are linebackers, defensive backs or interior linemen.
"We've got enough of the skill guys already," says McBride.
The Utes return most of their skill players from last year's team, plus a redshirt wide receiver (1989 prep All-American Vernon Shaver), a Prop. 42 running back (Keith Williams) and a running back who didn't earn his JC degree in time to report last season (1989 JC All-American Pierre Jones), among others.
As a result, on Wednesday McBride signed the likes of Sam Manu, Kelvin Lambert and Shawn Miller - three JC linebackers - plus Reggie Alston and Sam Rhoades - a pair of big JC defensive backs.
"Those kids are studs," says McBride. "They're all impact players. They could play for anyone."
In all, the Utes signed 11 JC transfers, including offensive linemen Gary Potts and Eddie Castillo, whom McBride rates as impact players. Unlike a year ago, McBride says he took fewer chances this year on JC players who are academic risks. Translation: The vast majority of his JC recruits will be able to report to Utah in time for spring practice. However, Castillo and Miller still must finish their Associate Arts degrees and won't report until next fall.
Aside from blue collar players, if anything else marks this year's recruiting class it is instate players and linemen.
Of the 16 preps that the Utes signed, eight are from Utah. The Utes managed to beat out rival BYU to nab two of the state's top recruits - Scott Jackson, an all-state lineman at Springville High, and Aaron Hansen, an all-state lineman at Skyline High.
"One of my goals when I took this job was to do a good recruiting job in our own state," said McBride. "They were the first guys we went after. We've been evaluating them all year. It's real important to do well in our state."
The Utes did well far from home, as well. Taking advantage of assistant coach Sam Papilii's connections in Hawaii (he's a native Polynesian), the Utes also recruited heavily in Hawaii, which produced a number of top prospects this year. They signed three all-state defensive linemen in Hawaii - Toele Faamoe, who visited Washington and Hawaii (he blocked for BYU-bound Mark Atuaia, who set the state's career rushing record); Roy Maafala, who also was pursued by BYU, Washington, Hawaii and San Diego State; and Louie De'Castro.By now do you notice something else about Utah's recruits? Thirteen of them are interior linemen - eight for the offense, five for the defense.
But the Utes didn't sign the lunch-pail types exclusively. As expected, they signed Keith McDonald, who led Esperanza High (in Anaheim, Calif.) to a 14-0 divisional championship season while throwing for nearly 1,600 yards in a run-oriented offense. Unexpectedly, the Utes also signed Neil Aoga, a 6-foot-3, 225-pound quarterback at Polytechnic High in Long Beach, Calif.
Aoga, who sat out his junior season and played tight end as a sophomore, has played just one year at quarterback. In nine games last season (the only available statistics during a 6-5 season), he threw for a modest 836 yards.
"He has a very strong arm and a lot of talent," says Whiting. "Hopefully, he'll develop at Utah."
According to Whiting, Utah was the only school to recruit Aoga, who probably will be a Prop. 42 case next year.
The Utes signed three preps who were included on at least one national blue-chip recruiting list - Jackson, Hansen and Luther Elliss, a 6-foot-5, 235-pound tight end from Colorado who caught 87 passes the past two seasons. The Utes narrowly missed on several other top recruits. On Monday, Ute coaches were amazed to learn that their school was one of two finalists in the recruitment of Patrick Kesi, a Parade All-American offensive lineman. Kesi finally chose Washington.
Name Ht. Wt. Pos. High School/JC
Aaron Hansen 6-3 265 OL Skyline
Todd Jackson 6-4 270 OL Springville
Hema Katoa 6-3 285 OL Granger
Danny Davis 6-4 250 DL Mountain View
Darren Walker 6-4 240 DL Springville
Chris Godfrey 6-1 195 LB Bountiful
Jason Emerick 6-4 275 OL San Diego
Luther Ellis 6-4 235 TE Mancos High (Colo.)
Reggie Alston 6-2 215 DB NW Miss. CC (Miss.)
Steve Young 6-3 190 P/K Ricks College
Kelvin Lambert 6-1 250 LB Miss. Delta JC (Miss.)
Sam Rhodes 6-0 200 DB Miss. Delta JC (Miss.)
Gary Potts 6-4 283 OL Hancock JC (Calif.)
Sam Manu 6-3 235 LB Riverside CC (Calif.)
Derrick Whiddon 6-4 224 TE Orange Coast JC (Calif.)
Dan Uribe 6-2 235 TE Chabot JC (Calif.)
Neil Aoga 6-3 230 QB Long Beach Poly, (Calif.)
Anthony Brown 6-5 310 OL Mesa CC, Ariz.
Ed Castillo 6-4 285 OL Chabot JC, (Calif.)
Louie DeCastro 6-4 260 DL Punahou High, Hawaii
Toele Faamoe 6-3 255 DL Kahuku High, Hawaii
Walter Fiefia 6-2 230 DL Mountain Crest High
Jeff Kirkman 6-2 190 DB Clearfield High
Roy Maafala 6-3 250 DL Honolulu, Hawaii
Keith McDonald 6-2 198 QB Esperanza High, (Calif.)
Shawn Miller 6-0 230 LB El Camino JC, (Calif.)
John Walsh 6-4 210 QB Carson - Los Angeles
Karlos Rhodes 6-3 195 DB Ft. Walton, Fla.
Daily Johnson 5-11 185 RB Marshall, Texas
Royal Chamberlain 6-4 210 LB Mountain View
Terence Saluone 6-3 200 TE Provo
Shane Werley 6-4 245 OL/DLRangeview - Aurora, Colo.
Nathan Howard 6-5 240 OL Centerville - Clifton, Va.
Dustin Johnson 6-3 210 FB Eagar, Ariz.
Mike Johnston 5-10 175 WR S. San Francisco, Calif.
Hassan-Kareem McCulloch 5-10 175 DB Muir - Pasadena, Calif.
Itula Mili 6-4 200 WR Kahuku - Laie, Hawaii
Courtney Overstreet 5-11 185 DB Pasadena JC, Calif.
Paul Pitts 6-0 190 DB Pasadena JC, Calif.
Matt Sailors 6-3 225 LB Rancho B. Vista, Calif.
Jamal Willis 6-2 200 RB Bonanza High, Las Vegas
Matt Cox 6-6 250 OL Walpole High, Mass.
Greg Angelovic 6-1 190 QB Orange Coast CC, Calif.
Tony Banks 6-4 200 QB Hoover High, San Diego
Mark Broccardo 6-3 225 TE Saddleback JC, Calif.
Israel Byrd 5-11 175 DB Hancock JC, Calif.
Robby Clemons 5-9 185 RB Mesa CC, Ariz.
Michael Coe 5-10 180 DB Saddleback JC, Calif.
Nathan Donaldson 6-1 210 RB Boise High, Idaho
Ernie Goddard 5-11 215 LB Orange Coast CC, Calif.
Shawn Griswold 6-2 240 DL Piner High School, Calif.
Jim Hereth 6-4 220 TE American River JC, Calif.
Robert Holmes 6-2 220 DL Monte Vista High, Calif.
Corey Jenkins 5-11 160 QB McClymonds High, Calif.
Tony Jenkins 6-1 180 WR Saddleback JC, Calif.
Cotie McMahon 5-11 180 WR Glendale JC, Calif.
Brook Phillips 6-2 250 DL Butler CC
Kelvin Poindexter 5-10 205 RB Butler CC
Bobby Singer 6-0 185 LB Lompoc HS, Calif.
Greg Thompson 6-4 220 TE Glendale JC, Calif.
Chad Tigert 6-4 220 FB Solano College, Calif.
Craig Tippens 5-10 195 DB Butte Collge
DeMarco Wilson 6-2 170 WR McClymonds HS, Calif.
Abu Wilson 6-0 190 RB McClymonds HS, Calif.