Utah Utes RB commit Ricky Parks is a 2021 SI All-American nominee

Ryan Kostecka

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 as one of the premier playmakers in the country is soon-to-be four-star running back Ricky Parks out fo Gaither High School on Tampa, Florida.

Parks committed to the Utes on June 28, becoming Utah's first skill player of 2021 class and giving Costelli a phenomenal backfield mate. It was then announced on Wednesday that Parks was named an SI All-American nominee.

Over the coming weeks, SI will unveil its preseason top 10 for each of 14 position groups (kicking off with quarterbacks this week). SI will unveil its initial top 99 ranking, the SI99, on August 24.

The evaluation process will continue throughout the season “until the list of 1,000 contenders coalesces around just 25 young men who can say proudly they are the best of the best -- they are Sports Illustrated All-Americans,” said SI Director of Football Recruiting John Garcia Jr.

The candidates will be narrowed to 250 in October and 99 in November, and will culminate with 25 first-team Sports Illustrated All-Americans saluted at SI’s annual Sportsperson of the Year banquet in New York in December.

If fans want a running back who looks like former stars Zack Moss, Joe Williams and Devontae Booker, they won't have to look much further than Parks. Interestingly enough, Moss also hailed from Florida and Utah fans know exactly how successful his career turned out.

This guy is an absolute tank of a running back who is going to lower his shoulder and deliver the boom. He needs to work on his hands out of the backfield and his pass-protection skills, but he has the physical traits to be successful.

Parks, who is close to gaining that 4th star on 247sports, gained steam on the recruiting trail after picking up an offer from Florida State in January — but most pundits had him leaning towards Iowa. However, he was high on Utah as well as those schools appeared to be his top-two choices.

Parks ultimately chose Utah over Iowa, West Virginia, Florida State and Pittsburgh.

Right now, Parks checks in as a 3-star prospect on 247sports with an .8891 composite ranking. He's considered the No. 20 running back in the country and the No. 56 player from talent-rich Florida.

Utah's running back room is a little less crowded with the departure of Devonta’e Henry-Cole — which leaves expected junior starter Devin Brumfield and sophomore backup Jordan Wilmore, who drew raves in fall camp, as the two primary ball carriers.

The Utes only signed one running back in the 2020 class, 3-star Ty Jordan, who is versatile and could move into the slot. But based on his size and running style, Parks could immediately come in and give Utah a power-runner to begin with.

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Here's a complete breakdown by Garcia regarding what Parks can do at the next level...

Prospect: Ricky Parks
Status: SI All-American Candidate
Vitals: 5-foot-10, 192 pounds
Position: Running Back
School: Tampa (Fla.) Gaither
Schools of Interest: Considering Iowa, Utah, Florida State, Illinois and others.
Projected Position: Running Back

Frame: Mature build with well-proportioned, muscular upper and lower half. Not much room to add mass at the next level.

Athleticism: Good straight-line runner with acceleration through the hole. Strong footwork, especially laterally while navigating second and third levels. Good balance and body control with a comfort in the passing game. 100 and 200-meter sprinter in track and field with varsity success.

Instincts: Runs with the low center of gravity and lower-body power to wear down a defense. Comfortable playing behind his pads and certainly through contact. Combines patience and vision to set up blocks and open up cutback lanes as necessary. Combative runner in the open field with a strong off-hand game.

Polish: Mature back with a no-nonsense approach in pressing line of scrimmage. Subtle elusiveness in the wash or out in space with the ability to accelerate through contact. Excellent blocker with the ability to aid passing game as a pass catcher on occasion, too. Could prove more technical in the ball security department, securing possession on the correct arm and limiting chest exposure.

Bottom Line: Parks is an old school back with workhorse qualities in an age where it has become the minority. He is decisive with strong acceleration and cut-back ability in pressing the line. He won’t break off the home run but will gash defenses in chunks and create business decisions when working the secondary. There won’t be much a physical adjustment to him doing similar in college.

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