If all goes as expected, Utah coach Kyle Whittingham expects 17 new faces to join the Utes today with signed letters of intent. The other slots, he explained, will likely be filled with returned missionaries and walk-ons who have earned scholarships.

"It's pretty balanced," Whittingham said of Utah's plan to sign a class featuring 13 or 14 skill position players and 11 or 12 linemen.

"There's not a glaring deficiency at any one spot," he added. "You're always trying to keep the numbers somewhat balanced."

As usual, though, the Utes are focused on signing the best football players they can. Those with the most speed and athleticism top the list.

Whittingham is hopeful the program will come away with another class similar to the classes they've had the last three years.

Things could get much better — literally and figuratively — if offensive linemen Benji Kemoeatu and Anthony Si'ilata of Kahuku High School in Hawaii choose the Utes. The duo, who are 6-foot-4 and 6-foot-2, respectively, and weigh a combined 625 pounds, gave oral commitments to the program a couple of weeks ago — as did teammate Alema Tachibana, a linebacker.

The trio, however, waffled on their decision and have since entertained other offers. Tachibana now plans to sign with Hawaii and the other two took a recruiting trip to Oregon State.

Kemoeatu, whose older brothers Ma'ake and Chris are former Utes, plans to make his final decision this morning — as does Si'ilata.

Several other recruits, though, have made their intentions more clear. Utah has at least 14 solid commitments, including mid-year signee Lamar Chapman, a junior college defensive back.

Receivers are a point of emphasis, Whittingham noted, and the Utes are expecting signatures from several skilled wideouts.

The cast includes former Boise State receiver Aiona Key, Pasadena City College record-holder David Reed, Arizona prep star Luke Matthews and Copper Hills standout Kendrick Moeai. Other skill-position recruits include quarterback DeVonte Christopher (Canyon Springs HS, Nev.), versatile athlete Ryan Lacy (Oakmont HS, Calif.), running back Sausan Shakerin of Alta High School and tight end Siaki Cravens (Temecula Valley HS, Calif.).

The line recruits are headed by David Kruger of Timpanogos High School. Joining Kruger on defense is Sealver Siliga of Copper Hills.

On the offensive line, Utah is expected to sign Sam Benner (Oceanside HS, Calif.), Zach Davila (Cienega HS, Ariz.) and Derek Tuimauga of Bingham.

All the signees are expected to compete for spots immediately. Whittingham has repeatedly said the Utes are looking to put their best 22 players on the field, regardless of seniority in the program.

Three returned missionaries, who originally signed with Utah in 2005, are also technically part of this year's recruiting class. The trio includes offensive lineman Tony Bergstrom (Skyline HS), linebacker Greg Bird (Red Mountain HS, Ariz.) and defensive back Grayson Dart (Northridge HS).

Utah has also awarded scholarships to several walk-ons, continuing an approach that has served the program well in recent years. The latest player additions to the list include linebacker Mike Wright and defensive back R.J. Rice. Other recent recipients include defensive lineman Isley Filiaga, kicker Ben Vroman, as well as defensive backs Terrell Cole and Chaz Walker.

"Our walk-on tradition here is pretty strong," Whittingham said. "That's been a big plus for us."

E-mail: dirk@desnews.com