CEDAR CITY — Southern Utah's signing class during Wednesday's National Signing Day was mostly local talent, as the Thunderbirds inked 20 football players from Utah.
"One of the things I think a player can gain from is the certain amount of pride they have in representing their state," Southern Utah coach Ed Lamb said. "And when we go around playing other schools, that means something."
In all, 28 players signed on to play with Southern Utah, a number that includes one junior college signee.
The Thunderbirds' class consists of 11 on defense, including six defensive linemen of which four come from Utah high schools: Kole Afu and Shad Enis (Alta), Rhett Bird (North Sanpete) and Filipe Fifita-Sitake (Mountain View).
Among the 11 signed players on the other side of the ball, five are offensive linemen, including three that played their prep ball in Utah: Jason Brimhall (American Fork), Evan Ross (Fremont) and Spencer Rudolph (Davis).
The offensive group also includes a pair of quarterbacks, two wide receivers — Cole Payne (Orem High) and Martavius Redmond (West Jordan High) — and two running backs.
Two Las Vegas recruits — Malik Brown and 315-pound defensive lineman Peterson Taeao — will play for the Thunderbirds.
"We're super excited to have him with us," Lamb said of Taeao, who also had offers from Houston and UNLV.
Four players are coming from high schools in California, including 335-pound offensive lineman Kyle Donaldson, a junior-college transfer from Orange Coast College in Pacifica, Calif. The Thunderbirds are also getting Austin Young, a 6-5 quarterback from Colfax (Calif.) High. The only other quarterback in this signing class is Anthony Sattiewhite from Ogden High.
Both running backs that signed with SUU won't have to travel far. Christian Taele played at Spanish Fork High, while Brian Scott was at Hurricane High.
Lamb said Scott, who is also the reigning 3A state wrestling champion at 215 pounds, will fit in well.
"He's a great player and a great kid; he really led that Hurricane team. He's a real fighter," Lamb said.
Lamb is excited about how Taele will fit in the T-Birds' backfield.
"He's tremendously versatile," Lamb said. "His strength is really as a receiver out of the backfield, and that really fits what we do."
Three other players — all from St. George — will be playing even closer to home. Desert Hills High teammates Porter Harris and linebacker Mike Needham will both join the Thunderbirds, as will long snapper Kolton Donovan (Pine View High).
Harris, who is also the state triple-jump champion, played quarterback in high school, but will probably play defensive back for the Thunderbirds, Lamb said.
"He's an excellent athlete and a fantastic student," he said.
Sione Fukofuka, a 6-5, 250-pound player with a yet-to-be-determined position, comes to Southern Utah via Liahona High in Nuku'alofa, Tonga.
Once the whole recruiting picture came together, Lamb said he and his staff were pleased.
"I don't really get the chance to see how a class is going to look until one or two days before (signing day), and when I saw it, I was amazed at how many good in-state players we got," he said.
2012 SUU signing class
Kole Afu, Alta HS, Draper 6-2, 240 DL. Earned first team all-region honors.
J.T. Anderson, Layton HS, Layton 6-2, 165 DB. Two-time first-team all-region performer, and second-team all-state in 2011. 14 interceptions in final two years of high school, running three back for touchdowns.
Rhett Bird, North Sanpete HS, Mt. Pleasant 6-5, 225 DL. First-team all-region, and honorable mention all-state.
Jason Brimhall, American Fork HS, American Fork 6-5, 255 OL. First-team all-region and honorable mention all-Utah Valley recognition.
Malik Brown, Canyon Springs HS, Las Vegas, Nev. 6-1, 185 ATH. Rushed for 1,099 yards and 12 touchdowns as a senior.
Kolton Donovan, Pine View HS, St. George 6-3, 255 LS. Ranked fourth in the nation among long-snappers by Koh's Kicking and as the No. 11 overall recruit in the state of Utah by ESPN. Winner of Kohl's National Scholarship for long snappers. Was invited to the Underclassmen's Best of the Best Challenge and to play in the GIU Prep Stars Classic.
Shad Enis, Alta HS, Draper 6-3, 275 DL. Earned first-team all-region honors.
Mike Evans, Esparto HS, Esparto, Calif. 6-3, 195 DL. Earned first-team all-Mid Valley Conference and all-Division honors.
Filipe Fifita-Sitake, Mountain View HS, Orem 6-2, 265 DL. Second-team all-state honors. First –team all-Region 8 selection.
Sione Fukofuka, Liahona HS, Nuku'alofa, Tonga 6-5, 250 ATH. Member of the Tongan U-21 national rugby team.
Porter Harris, Desert Hills HS, St. George 6-3, 180 ATH. Consensus second-team all-state selection. Also the 2010 Utah 3A triple-jump champion.
Raysean Martin, Tennyson HS, Hayward, Calif. 5-11, 185 ATH. First-team all-league honors as a running back and second-team honors as both a defensive back and kick returner. Tallied 21 combined touchdowns. Named team MVP while racking up more than 1,600 all-purpose yards.
Mike Needham, Desert Hills HS, St. George 6-3, 195 LB. All-region and first-team all-state as a running back. Rushed for 1,293 yards and 14 touchdowns.
Taylor Parker, Hurricane HS, Hurricane 6-2, 185 ATH. Consensus first-team all-state and all-region as a defensive back. Recorded 48 tackles and three interceptions.
Cole Payne, Orem HS, Orem 6-2, 185 WR. Consensus all-region and all-state. Caught 67 passes for 1,299 yards and 15 touchdowns.
Taylor Pili, Granger HS, Salt Lake City 6-4, 205 LB. Earned first-team all-region and consensus honorable mention all-state honors.
Martavius Redmond, West Jordan HS, West Jordan 6-3, 190 WR. A two-time all-region and all-state performer.
Evan Ross, Fremont HS, Plain City 6-6, 272 OL. Earned honorable mention all-region honors, a 3.8 GPA student.
Spencer Rudolph, Davis HS, Kaysville 6-6, 295 OL. Honor roll student, earned honorable mention all-region honors.
Anthony Sattiewhite Ogden HS, Ogden 6-1, 170 QB. Earned first-team all-region honors and was his team's MVP. Earned the Larry H. Miller Pick the Prep Player of the Week award.
Brian Scott, Hurricane HS, Hurricane 6-1, 220 RB. Was the 2011 Utah 3A MVP after leading his team to the state title. Had 210 carries for 1,638 yards and 31 touchdowns. Finished his career with 40 total TDs and also had 39 tackles from his linebacker position. Also is reigning Utah 3A state champion wrestler at 215 pounds.
Lloyd Stephens, Fremont HS, Plain City 6-3, 200 DE. Honor roll student while carrying a 4.0 GPA. Earned honorable mention all-region honors.
Peterson Taeao, Liberty HS, Las Vegas, Nev. 6-3, 315 DL. Four-year starter on both offensive and defensive lines. Earned all-Nevada 4A first-team honors, all-Sunrise Region, all-Southern Nevada, 4A All-Nevada Prep/Rivals and all-Southeast honors. Has been invited to participate in the Polynesian All-American Classic next month in southern California.
Christian Taele, Spanish Fork HS, Spanish Fork 6-1, 195 RB. Consensus first-team all-state and all-region honors Gained 1,895 yards of total offense, including 1,506 rushing yards. Totaled 23 touchdowns and had 33 tackles playing linebacker.
Austin Young, Colfax HS, Colfax, Calif. 6-5, 215 QB. Two-time first-team all-league selection, and was league's offensive MVP. Threw for over 5,000 yards and 58 touchdowns over the past two seasons, including last year, when he completed 124-of-201 passes for 2,752 yards and 33 touchdowns.
Kyle Donaldson, Orange Coast College, Pacifica, Calif. 6-4, 335 OL. Earned all-conference honors while blocking for nation's leading Junior College rusher Dominic Betts. Bench press: 31 reps at 225 pounds.
Anthony Sarrocco, Moorpark HS, Moorpark, Calif. 6-4, 260 OL. Earned all-league honors.
Yabbitse Wells, Skyview HS, Logan 5-11, 158 CB. Two-time first-team all-region, return specialist MVP. Recorded 60 tackles from his defensive back position.