SALT LAKE CITY — Quality not quantity. That’s how Utah coach Kyle Whittingham described the 12 recruits the Utes secured when the early signing period opened on Wednesday.
“We didn’t lose a lot of guys this year,” Whittingham said. “We don’t lose a lot. So it’s not a big class.”
Although Whittingham noted that there may be a few more players to add, he said the staff feels really good about addressing the team’s needs. The Utes wound up signing four offensive linemen, two defensive backs and two defensive linemen, as well as a linebacker, a punter, a running back and a wide receiver.
The majority of the signees came from what Whittingham called the “usual footprint that we typically recruit — Arizona, California, Florida, Texas and Utah. This class also included another punter from Australia and a player from New Jersey.
The latter is former Penn State linebacker Manny Bowen. The graduate transfer comes with three years of collegiate experience. He made 134 tackles with the Nittany Lions — playing in 35 games and starting 21.
“He’s a guy that we feel very positive about,” said Whittingham, who added that Bowen will be in camp this spring to learn the system.
Bowen is expected to help fill the void created by the graduation losses of linebackers Chase Hansen and Cody Barton.
Another player expected to step in quickly is punter Ben Lennon of Viewbank, Australia. He follows the pipeline from Down Under that includes two-time Ray Guy Award winner Tom Hackett and three-time Ray Guy Award finalist and 2016 winner Mitch Wishnowsky.
“It’s been a great run of Aussie punters and we hope this guy is right in line with the other two that we’ve had so far,” said Whittingham, who noted that the punting job belongs to Lennon and he needs to run and take it.
Utah’s signing class also includes three return missionaries — defensive lineman Keaton Bills (Corner Canyon HS), defensive lineman Semisi Lauaki (Hawthorne, California) and offensive lineman Johnny Maea (East HS).
Others putting signatures on National Letters of Intent for the Utes include wide receiver Donte Banton (Lauderhill, Florida), running back Micah Bernard (Long Beach, California), offensive lineman Falcon Kaumatule (Las Vegas, Nevada), defensive lineman Sataoa Laumea (Rialto, California), safety Aaron Lowe, Mesquite, Texas), cornerback LaCarea Pleasant-Johnson (Phoenix, Arizona), and offensive lineman Marist Talavou (Norwalk, California).
“We feel good, obviously, about the guys we got,” said Whittingham, who expects to sign another six or seven players in February.
Position-wise, the Utes are looking to possibly add a quarterback, a running back, an offensive lineman, a wide receiver, linebackers, a safety and a cornerback in the traditional signing period. Whittingham said they plan to leave one or two spots open for situations that develop late.
Recruiting expert Dan Sorensen of 247 Sports and UteZone.com said the Utes had a good day overall.
“They locked in a big part of their class that they were looking for,” Sorensen said. “They got a good start in terms of building that base for what they’re going toward for February.”19 comments on this story
Sorensen really liked that landed Laumea away from UCLA. The defensive lineman is projected to be a guy that will play early because of his skillset. The Utes, Sorensen continued, also did a good job of getting offensive linemen and defensive backs in the early signing period.
“There’s still a few things that they need to accomplish, a few spots that they need to fill — especially at quarterback and linebacker and safety,” Sorensen said. “But they did a good job of really building the foundation for finishing off the class in February.”