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Utes Finish With 24 Signees in Exciting 2016 Recruiting Class

Utah head football coach Kyle Whittingham answering questions during the Signing Day press conference at the Eccles Football Center on Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2016. (Chris Ayers, Daily Utah Chronicle)
Christopher Ayers
Utah head football coach Kyle Whittingham answering questions during the Signing Day press conference at the Eccles Football Center on Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2016. (Chris Ayers, Daily Utah Chronicle)

On National Signing Day, Utah had a recruiting class of 24 players —18 out of high school and six out of junior college. Head coach Kyle Whittingham thinks they have a solid group of guys coming in.

Utah got mostly everyone it sought after, and although Whittingham had not heard from a few until the last 24 hours, no bad news came in. One signee he is most excited about is David Luafatasaga, a 6-foot-4 232-pound linebacker who is coming out of Arizona Western College.

Since the team lost three seniors at that position, Whittingham is confident that with Luafatasaga’s junior college experience, he will easily find his way into the rotation and bring a lot to the Utah defense.

“It came down to a tough call for him,” Whittingham said. “He had three schools he was looking at and we’re fortunate to get his NLI and we’re ecstatic about that. He’s a long defender. He’s exceptional at rushing the passer and can also do inside linebacker, but his real strength is coming off the edge.”

Five signees will not be joining the team for another two years as they will all be serving LDS missions before officially joining the program. However, Whittingham thinks they were able to lock in some great athletes with huge potential.

“That’s the best group of outgoing missionary signees we’ve ever had, potentially,” Whittingham said. “We’ll see when they get back.”

Utah feels as though it did a great job of signing plenty of linebackers, like Luafatasaga, but another area that was in need of help was the quarterback position.

The Utes knotted this up earlier in the year and both potential quarterbacks, Troy Williams and Tyler Huntley, are enrolled at Utah. Whittingham expects there to be a lot of batting between these two when spring ball comes around.

Another person Whittingham is looking forward to joining the team is Snow College transfer Garett Bolles on the offensive line. Whittingham feels he will make an immediate impact both on and off the field because of his tenacity in the game and his down-to-earth personality.

“Arguably the best junior college prospect in the country this year,” Whittingham said. “He is a big time left tackle and he’s smart, tough, and that’s a great gift for us. He could have gone anywhere. It was a pleasure recruiting him, he’s one of those guys you fall in love with.”

Three things that helped Utah in the recruiting process was Whittingham’s contract extension, solidifying other coaching positions early on and, of course, winning.

Utah had its winningest season since joining the Pac-12 as it finally hit that double-digit win mark. As recruits see that the program continues to improve year after year, Whittingham thinks they are eager to be part of a program that has bigger things in store for the future.

“Ten wins will do the most good,” Whittingham said. “Winning solves everything and it certainly helps your cause in recruiting. We attribute a lot of our success to the way we’re trending. A lot of those guys want to be a part of what’s coming next.”

Whittingham recently received a contract extension, something he and the university felt was necessary to finalize because other coaches were using this against him. Now that he’s locked up at Utah for a few more years, recruits felt more comfortable knowing things would not be switched up, and the same goes for finalizing other coaching positions. The Utes did a lot of promoting within house and recruits saw this as another positive.

Regarding the in-state battle with BYU, Whittingham is not worried about it at all. They feel as though they did all they could with in-state recruits and in the end he wants to go after players who will give the Utes their best shot in conference play.

“[With BYU] we always have a few head-to-heads with in-state athletes,” Whittingham said. “Our main concern is head-to-head in the Pac-12. Those are the guys we’re going to play and try to win a conference championship against, that’s the primary focus.”

All in all, Whittingham’s looking forward to next season and what these recruits will bring to the field.

“We’re really excited about this class,” Whittingham said. “Our assistant coaches did a fantastic job with evaluation and targeting the right guys. We won some crucial head to head battles with some stiff competition and so that was good to see.”

Some of these recruits will be in action come March 22 when spring practice begins.

[email protected]

@kbrenneisen

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