Recruiting day lands Utah 23 signees

By Christopher Kamrani, Asst. Sports Editor

For Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham, this year’s recruiting was “a piece of cake” compared to the recruiting class of 2005.

The fifth-year head coach spoke about the potential relapse the team and program could have gone through after former coach Urban Meyer left for Florida after the 2004 season.

Whittingham didn’t allow a setback then, and now, after another undefeated season, another Bowl Championship Series win and a No. 2 overall ranking, Whittingham and the Utes have made an instant impact in the signing of 23 players Wednesday.

“Now there’s much more continuity,” Whittingham said. “People understand that we’re for real and I think it’s a big difference this year, compared to what we had to go through after ’04.”

This year’s recruiting class includes 16 freshmen and seven junior college transfers, with two “greyshirts” from last season.

Defensively, the Utes gain 13 incoming players who will help ease the pain of losing defensive end Paul Kruger and cornerback Sean Smith as early entries to the NFL Draft. Utah signed six defensive backs, which includes three corners and three safeties, alongside five defensive linemen. The offense picked up 10 new players, including three wide receivers and three offensive linemen.

“Once again, we feel as though we were able to put together a solid recruiting class,” Whittingham said. “Our philosophy has always been to recruit the best players, regardless of position, and this year was no different.”

Utah struck out on recruits in Texas last year, but the Lone Star state turned out to be Utah’s most fertile hunting ground for recruits this time around.

The Utes signed six Texans in all, including highly touted defensive tackle Siosaia “LT” Tuipulotu out of Trinity High School in Euless, Texas, and a potential starting quarterback Terrance Cain out of Blinn Junior College in Brenham, Texas.

Whittingham credited Utah’s success in Texas to the two assigned recruiters in the state8212;safeties coach Morgan Scalley, whom Whittingham referred to as a “bulldog recruiter,” and cornerbacks coach Aaron Alford.

“Texas just seems to be ahead of the curve,” Whittingham said, adding that native Texans coming out of high school are often the most ready to play. “(In Texas) it’s a year-round type feel, it’s almost a college-type atmosphere.”

With the graduation of Texan corner Brice McCain and the early departure of Smith, the Utes helped themselves in the present and the future with the signing of the six defensive backs. Whittingham mentioned the incoming trio of corners out of junior colleges in Southern California as names to watch out for in the near future. Whittingham said they all possess 4.3 to 4.4 speed8212;Maxwell Lacy, 6-foot-2-inches, 193 lbs. out of Compton Community College; Kamaron Yancy, 5-foot-9, 187 lbs. out of Pierce Community College; and Conroy Black, 6 feet, 176 lbs. out of Fullerton Community College. Lacy and Yancy are both enrolled at the U.

“Those three JC corners really should bolster that position and give us some much-needed guys who have experience,” Whittingham said.

Utah recruited and signed two quarterbacks in this class, one being Cain and the other Jordan Wynn, a 6-foot-1, 175 lb. quarterback out of Oceanside, Calif., who led Oceanside High School to the CIF Division II State Championship, alongside the CIF-San Diego Section title.

With the graduation of fifth-year senior quarterback Brian Johnson, the Utes head into spring camp with a giant question mark as to who will quarterback the team. Whittingham said Corbin Louks will be taking first-team reps come time for springball, but mentioned the race for the starting job is “by no means over.”

In terms of recruiting in-state players, Utah signed seven in-staters, including a couple of highly looked-at players.

James Aiono, a 6-foot-3, 273 lb. defensive end out of Snow College and regarded by www.rivals.com as the No. 1 junior college prospect in the country, put the pen to the paper and signed with the Utes. Alongside Aiono is Highland High School offensive lineman Latu Heimuli, offensive lineman Vyncent Jones out of Jordan High School and Jason Whittingham, the nephew of Utah’s coach, out of Timpview High School.

Three of the state’s most sought-after players signed with the Utes as well. Safety Chris Washington out of Northridge High School, Bingham High School product L.T. Filiaga and Cottonwood High School offensive lineman Percy Taumoleau all decided to spurn out-of-state offers and stick with Utah.

The Utes did miss out on one of the best offensive lineman in the nation in Timpview High School product Xavier Sua-Filo, who had narrowed his decision down to Utah and UCLA, but ultimately chose the Bruins cap this morning.

“”X’ is a tremendous player,” Whittingham said about Sua-Filo. “He’s one of the best players in the state, hands down. We felt like we were right up there until the end.”

With 23 new Utes headed toward the hill, Whittingham responded to a question of who he thought might be a player that could be under the radar and make an impact in the near future. Whittingham went with Antoine “Shaky” Smithson, a wide receiver from Baltimore who attended junior college at East Los Angeles Community College.

“(Smithson) is a tremendous, tremendous athlete,” he said.

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Lennie Mahler

The Ute?s signed 23 new football players Wednesday. Coach Whittingham was happy with what he said was a ?solid? recruiting class.