February 01, 2017

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) The defensive secondary was the clear priority for the Utah Utes after losing three starting cornerbacks to expiring eligibility and safety Marcus Williams to early-entry into the NFL draft.

Jaylon Johnson headlines the group with a four-star ranking from 247Sports Composite. The No. 11 cornerback in the country had offers from Michigan, California, Nebraska, Georgia, Oregon, USC and others, according to 247Sports. Blinn College transfer Corrion Ballard also received a four-star ranking and is already enrolled. Tareke Lewis is a three-star transfer from Riverside Community College and Javelin Guidry is a speedster from Vista Murrieta (Calif.) High School that had offers from Texas, Houston, Arizona State and Oregon State.

''We lost probably 90 percent of our secondary with the four corners and Marcus Williams,'' Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said. ''That was obviously a point of emphasis.

''Speed and athleticism. We got some real high-caliber athletes in the secondary. That's been the trend since we joined the Pac-12, to get better and better athletically in the back end. We feel like we definitely did that this year ... and beat some really good schools on some of the players we got back there.''

Other things to know:

Top 25 Class: No

Best in class: Jaylon Johnson, DB, Fresno, California.

Best of the rest: Corrion Ballard, S, Humble, Texas

Late addition: Bryan Thompson, WR, Moreno Valley, California.

One that got away: Jay Tufele, DT, South Jordan, Utah

How they'll fit in: Whittingham said they got a boost at receiver after Troy Taylor was announced as offensive coordinator. His pass-friendly system averaged a nation-high 401 passing yards per game at Eastern Washington last season. Utah signed three-star receivers Bryan Thompson (6-2, 181), Tyquez Hampton (6-2, 204) and Jaylen Dixon (5-9, 156).

''We got a lot more interest from receivers and offensive personnel with his background and what he's achieved and accomplished at other places,'' Whittingham said. ''Particularly with receivers. Last year he had three guys at Eastern that went over 1,000 yards. That's a selling point. We feel, going forward, it's going to be an even bigger deal if he's able to do the same thing here. It's going to be a snowball effect.''


For the full list http://www.utahutes.com/


More AP college football: www.collegefootball.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25

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