The first day of college football’s early 2018 signing period began on Wednesday, and while local FBS programs still have some work to do to complete their 2019 recruiting classes, they each got off to solid starts.
Here are some observations about BYU’s, Utah’s and Utah State’s classes thus far. The early period concludes on Friday, and then the traditional National Signing Day will be on Feb. 6.
The Cougars signed 14 players on Wednesday, eight offensive players and six defensive. Six of the players hail from the state of Utah.
Without a doubt, the most notable name is quarterback Jacob Conover of Arizona. Conover chose BYU over a number of top programs in the country. He’ll leave on a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It is anticipated that his first season back in Provo will be Zach Wilson’s senior campaign.
The Cougars also did well Wednesday at wide receiver, signing American Fork’s Chase Roberts and Keanu Hill of Texas. BYU held off interest from Utah in Roberts. In the program’s continued effort to bolster its tight end corps, two more signed, Ethan Erickson of Hawaii and Carter Wheat of Arizona.
The Cougars also added a few offensive linemen, Herriman’s Blake Freeland, Brock Gunderson of Texas and Eli Unutoa of Hawaii.
On the defensive line, two locals signed. BYU inked South Summit’s Bruce Mitchell and longtime commit Brooks Maile of Pine View. Another local, Lone Peak’s Michael Daley, was the Cougars’ lone signee at linebacker after an outstanding senior season with the Knights, while the program added three defensive backs in Eric Ellison (juco product), Caleb Christensen (Sky View) and George Udo (California).
Twelve players in all signed with the Utes on Wednesday, although three of them are returned missionaries who originally signed in 2016. That trio consists of local offensive lineman Johnny Maea (East), local defensive lineman Keaton Bills (Corner Canyon) and defensive lineman Semisi Lauaki of California. Another, linebacker Manny Bowen, was a previously announced transfer from Penn State.
Of the eight “new” signees, five are offensive players, two are defensive and the Utes got another punter from Australia in Ben Lennon.
Utah certainly added to its offensive line, as three of the eight new signees are primed to play in the trenches. Sataoa Laumea was a big get for the Utes, as he was considering UCLA, Cal and USC in the final days before Wednesday. Falcon Kaumatule also received late interest from the Trojans, while Marist Talavou was long committed to Utah.
As far as skill positions go, certainly the biggest storyline with the Utes is who they didn’t get, as Jayden Daniels, the top dual threat quarterback in the country, was long considering Utah before committing to Arizona State last week. With Tyler Huntley, Jason Shelley and Drew Lisk being the only signal callers on the roster, look for the Utes to work hard between now and February to add one more.
Utah did add two skill position players in California running back Micah Bernard and Florida wide receiver Donte Banton. Wideout Darren Jones, a 6-foot-8 high school teammate of Daniels, is committed but did not sign Wednesday.
The only two defensive players the Utes added Wednesday who are not returned missionaries were defensive backs LaCarea Pleasant-Johnson (Arizona) and Aaron Lowe (Texas).
In its second year of existence, the early signing period is tricky for coaches who have just been hired. On Wednesday, new/old Aggies coach Gary Andersen signed 14 playersand will be able to complete the class in February.
Seven of the signees play defense, five play offense, and Utah State also added kicker/punter Pierce Callister of Weber High and long snapper Jesse James Vasquez of California. Four of the 14 signees are from Utah.
The Aggies bolstered their linebacking corps, adding four players, Christian LaValle, Simon Thompson, Jaymason Willingham and Weber High’s Sione Moa. Two defensive linemen were added, California’s Dean Rice and Viewmont High’s Aaron Bredsguard. One defensive back was added, safety Keith Harris of California.
On offense, quarterback Josh Calvin of California was signed, while wide receiver Cam Lampkin of Texas was the only other skill player added. Three offensive linemen were added, East High’s Jackson Owens, Ashton Adams of Oregon and Aric Davison of Washington.
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The top player in the state, East lineman Siaki “Apu” Ika, signed early Wednesdaywith LSU over Florida, Utah, Oregon and USC, but after that it was a pretty quiet day for players who didn’t sign in-state.
Among top unsigned prospects, Orem’s Puka Nacua and Hunter Hill are committed to USC and Washington State, respectively, and Bingham’s Junior Tafuna is committed to Utah. Skyridge’s Logan Sagapolu will announce his commitment in January, while Tafuna’s Miner teammates Simote Pepa and Lolani Langi are expected to wait until February to announce their commitments.