It may be the month of July, and the COVID-19 pandemic may be seriously hindering recruiting for most of the college football programs throughout the country. But for the University of Utah, head coach Kyle Whittingham and co. are off to a stellar start in recruiting compared to where they usually are this time of year.
Headlining Utah's 2021 recruiting class is quarterback Peter Costelli, one of the top-ranked passers in the country according SI All American's John Garcia.
Joining Costelli is one of the premier running backs in the country in soon-to-be four-star running back Ricky Parks out of Gaither High School in Tampa, Florida. The Utes the secured their first wide receiver commit of the 2021 class when Deamikkio Nathan, the playmaker out of South Grand Prairie High School in Grand Prairie, Texas, announced his commitment to the Utes on July 1.
All three players have been named SI All-American nominees.
But now with the offense starting to thrive, Utah must turn its attention to the other side of the ball. With three-star linebacker Trey Reynolds, another SI All-American nominee, already on board, the Utes are looking to add to its linebacker depth and pair Reynolds with another game-changer on the outside.
Enter Kahanu Kia, a four-star linebacker out of Punahou High School in Honolulu, HI.
When looking at Kia, Utah is evaluating him based on the potential he possesses in a year or two down the road, and that is very high.
Kia is beginning to fill out his frame, but that's expected as he will continue to grow once he gets into a collegiate strength and conditioning program. He's already an athletic specimen, testing off the charts and showcasing very good bend and the ability to play on coverage.
He does need to get a little more physical as that part of his game hasn't quite caught up to his instincts, but the expectation is that with more time it will happen. He shows natural ability to shed blockers and is highly regarded for his mental preparation to the game.
Utah signed two three-star outside linebackers in the 2020 class; JC transfer Jeremy Mercier and Graham Faloona — stating how inexperienced Utah is at the linebacker position. Expected starters Devin Lloyd and Sione Lund are going to be juniors this season while backups include Mercier (Junior), senior Nephi Sewell and sophomore Andrew Mata’afa.
In the end, Kia is a kid who could really break out once he hits his sophomore or junior season of college — very similar to what's expected out of defensive end Mika Tafua this upcoming season for the Utes. Utah is very high on his list and at this point in his recruitment, it would be somewhat surprising if he didn't end up in Salt Lake City when it's all said and done.
Here's a complete breakdown by SI All-American director of recruiting John Garcia regarding what Fano can do at the next level...
Prospect: LB Kahanu Kia
Projected Position: Linebacker
Status: SI All-American Candidate
Vitals: 6-foot-2, 220 pounds
School: Honolulu (Hawaii) Punahou
Schools of Interest: Considering Arizona, Colorado and Utah, among others.
Frame: Long arm defender with a wiry build with room to add mass and definition to upper and lower body
Athleticism: The son of a former Division I linebacker is a natural athlete who plays well in space and is a reliable tackler. His ability to play in the box or on the edge sets him apart at the high school level. He is also efficient in coverage.
Instincts: Diagnoses plays quick and is excellent in his ability to drop into passes lanes and use his length to his advantage.
Polish: As his frame continues to develop, he will grow into a complete edge rusher. He is a sure, reliable tackler who plays naturally in space. He tends to take negative steps which causes him to get out of position when playing in the box.
Bottom Line: Kahuna Kia is a well-rounded linebacker who is only going to improve as his frame fills out. He projects as an edge rusher, but he can play multiple roles across the linebacking corps. His ability to diagnose and react in run support, while also being disruptive in the passing game is desirable. He projects as a starter at the Power 5 level.
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