Editor's note: Utah announced another signing, defensive back Sione Vaki, Wednesday night after the original posting of this article. It has been updated to include Vaki.
SALT LAKE CITY — After signing a dozen recruits to national letters of intent on Dec. 19, Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham and his staff didn’t have a whole lot of room to maneuver when National Signing Day rolled around.
What they did with that limited maneuverability, however, left the Utes ecstatic.
Utah added seven more recruits to its 2019 recruiting class Wednesday, for a total of 19 commitments.
Those seven included a pair of massive offensive linemen, a transfer quarterback, a four-star running back, a safety and a a pair of defensive backs, filling almost every need the Utes had following the early signing period.
“We only had 11 scholarship seniors, so there wasn’t a lot to replace,” Whittingham said in an interview with the Pac-12 Network. “We think that we have definitely made ourselves better.”
The recruits hailed from a wide variety of locales, including London, England, Brisbane, Australia and Tulsa, Oklahoma, as well as from the usual California and Texas, both of which are in the Utah recruiting footprint.
Headlining the newcomers was Texas transfer and California native Cameron Rising. A four-star quarterback out of Newbury Park High School in Newbury Park, California, Rising had been on the Utes radar for a while, according to Whittingham.
“We knew of Cam coming out of high school,” he said. “We knew him and we had heard rumors that he was thinking about leaving (Texas). We just kept an eye on that transfer portal. When his name popped in there, we kind of lit up.”
Rising gives Utah much-needed depth at quarterback, a position Whittingham called “important for everyone in the country,” and the possibility remains that he may become eligible to play during the 2019-20 season.
“We are still working to see if we can have him become eligible this fall,” said Whittingham. “There is some work that has to be done there. Worst case scenario, he’ll have to sit out this fall and then have three years of eligibility left.”
Regardless, Rising’s addition is a welcome one.
“It is a great get for us. Bad Moon (Rising) is a great addition to our football team. We are excited to have him,” Whittingham said.
Another of Wednesday’s recruits that elicited praise was three-star offensive lineman Bamidele Olaseni.
A native of London, England, Olaseni ended up in Garden City, Kansas, where he attended Garden City Community College.
Listed at 6-7, 332 pounds, Olaseni gives Utah yet another large body on the offensive line.
“He is going to be a huge asset for us,” said Whittingham. “Bam has massive size, he’s 6-8 and every bit of 6-8, not to mention 330, 40, or 50 pounds.”
Olaseni’s recruitment was an interesting one, headed by offensive line coach Jim Harding.
“Garden City is pretty isolated. It is not easy to get there. You have to be determined to get yourself out there,” Whittingham said. “We learned of Bam early on in the process. Jim Harding, our offensive line coach, was our lead recruiter and he developed a great relationship with Bam. I made a trip out there as well and saw him on campus. We were persistent, stayed with him, and gained his trust.
“He took a campus visit here and had a great experience on his visit and we are fortunate to get him today.”
The other five commitments for Utah included offensive lineman Luke Felix-Fualalo (Brisbane, Australia), defensive back JaTravis McCloud (Tulsa, Oklahoma), safety Drew Rawls (Beaumont, Texas), defensive back Sione Vaki (Antioch, California) and running back Jordan Wilmore (Lawndale, California). Wilmore, who committed late Wednesday afternoon, was widely expected to sign with Arizona State, but spurned the Sun Devils in favor of the Utes.
Even with 19 commitments in hand, as of Wednesday afternoon Whittingham expected a few more players to join Utah.
“The NLIs are still rolling in and there are three or four more that we expect to get in the next 24 hours that we are really excited about,” said Whittingham.
One of the those may or may not be former Desert Hills standout Nephi Sewell.
Chris Murray of NevadaSportsNet reported Wednesday that Sewell, who was expected to transfer to BYU from Nevada, will instead attend the U.
"Playing for Utah will give Sewell, a safety, the chance to play at the Power 5 level as the Utes play in the Pac-12 and reached the conference title game last season," wrote Murray. "Sewell must redshirt next season, per NCAA transfer rules, and will have two seasons of eligibility remaining at Utah."
"We are not done yet," said Whittingham.
— Luke Felix-Fualalo, OL, 6-7, 302 (Brisbane, Australia, Mater Dei High)
— JaTravis McCloud, DB, 5-11, 186 (Tulsa, Oklahoma, Union High)
— Bamidele Olaseni, OL, 6-7, 332 (London, England, Garden City Community College)
— Drew Rawls, S, 6-2, 185 (Beaumont, Texas, West Brook High)
— Cameron Rising, QB, 6-0, 233 (Ventura, California, University of Texas)
— Sione Vaki, DB, 6-0, 200 (Antioch, California, Liberty High)
— Jordan Wilmore, RB, 5-8, 199 (Lawndale, California, Lawndale HS)
— Donte Banton, WR, 6-0, 189 (Deerfield Beach HS)
— Micah Bernard, RB, 5-10½, 187 (Cerritos, California, Gahr HS)
— Keaton Bills, DL, 6-4, 274 (Draper, Utah)
— Manny Bowen, LB, 6-2, 231 (Barnegat, N.J., Penn State)19 comments on this story
— Falcon Kaumatule, ATH, 6-8 245 (Las Vegas, Nevada, Bishop Gorman HS)
— Semisi Lauaki, DE, 6-4, 240 (Lawndale, California)
— Sataoa Laumea, OL, 6-5, 300 (Rialto, California, Eisenhower HS)
— Ben Lennon, P, 6-2, 185 (Viewbank, Australia, Swinburne University)
— Aaron Lowe, S, 6-0, 179 (Mesquite, Texas, West Mesquite HS)
— Johnny Maea, OG, 6-4, 308 (Salt Lake City, East High)
— LaCarea Pleasant-Johnson, CB, 6-1, 161 (Phoenix, Arizona, Mountain Pointe HS)
— Marist Talavou, OG, 6-3, 316 (Bellflower, California, St. John Bosco HS)