National Signing Day: Utah's incoming class could be very special

Ryan Kostecka

The day is finally here! Utah will finally get to look at its future with the announcement of 27 new Utes to join the family.

The Numbers

Utah entered the day ranked No. 31st in the country and No. 5 in the Pac-12 — but finished 29th in the country and No. 5 in Pac-12. 

"We feel really good about this class," Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham said. "Our net has been cast fairly wide now and we have guys from all over the country. More than anything though, we are now able to stand toe-to-toe and win some of these battles with high profile schools. If you look at our recruits and their offers, we are beating some really good schools - schools we couldn't even be in the conversation with six or seven years ago."

Class of 2020 

*Faybian Marks, CB — 5'11'', 175 — George Ranch HS, Richmond, Texas

The first signee if the day is a defensive back out of Texas in Marks. A 3-star recruit by ESPN, Rivals and 247sports, Marks is an extremely fluid athlete who will add depth to the secondary but could improve to a starter in his later years. A second-team all-district player out of Texas, he finished his senior year with two interceptions and two forced fumbles, showing his propensity for ball-hunting. A dual-sport athlete who competes in track and field as well, Marks could make his mark early on special team where he averaged 29.7 yards per kickoff return last year.

*Jeremy Mercier, LB — 6'3'', 217 — Gila River JC, Chandler, Arizona

Another athletic linebacker to help fill out the class, Mercier can come in provide instant help on special teams. But to compete in the Pac-12, he will need to put on weight while maintaining his athleticism if he is to play and contribute in the Pac-12 on a regular basis. He will enter as a junior with two years to play, but he has the experience after being named the Hohokam Junior College Athletic Conference Co-Defensive Player of the Year 

*Cooper Justice, QB — 6'6'',231 — Lakeridge HS, Lake Oswego, Oregon

A potential diamond in the rough, Justice is the perfect "project" to develop for at least a year that Whittingham can't wait to get his hands on. A 3-star prospect by 247sports, the only reason Justice isn't billed as a bigger recruit because his senior year was his only year a full-time football — he's a great baseball prospect as a pitcher (three-sport athlete overall). He finished his senior year 119-of-216 passing (17 TD, 6 INT) for 1,870 yards, adding 99 carries for 398 yards and eight rushing touchdowns. Watch out for this kid in two years or so.

*Keanu Tanuvasa, DL — 6'3'', 238 — Mission Viejo HS, Mission Viejo, California

The 3-star recruit by Rivals and 247sports, Tanuvasa is athletic for his size and could provide depth as a stabilizer in the middle of the defensive line. He projects out as a future defensive tackle, with good foot speed and hand physicality. He finished his senior year with 40 tackles, 12 tackles for loss and five sacks... Impressive numbers for someone on the inside.

*Tanoa Togiai, DL — 6'6'', 285 — Rigby HS, Rigby, Idaho

Another diamond in the rough candidate as Togiai possesses the size, strength and athleticism that has become custom to Utah defensive linemen. A 3-star recruit by Rivals and 247sports — No. 3 recruit in Idaho — Togiai was an all-state performer in basketball, track and field competitor and 20202 Polynesian Bowl invitee. He has a great bloodline as well with a cousin who plays for Ohio State and his dad starred for Kansas State.

EARLY SIGNEES

*Jake Bentley, QB — 6'4'', 220 — South Carolina

Arguably the biggest get for the Utes is the graduate transfer from South Carolina. He started in every game he appeared in (33), playing in just one game in 2019 due to injury. Bentley led the Gamecocks to the Belk Bowl (2018) and the Outback Bowl (2017) during his time as a starter, earning Outback Bowl MVP as a sophomore. He has a 19-14 career record as a starter, including a 10-7 record in SEC games, and should compete immediately for the vacant starting position.

*Tennessee Pututau, DL — 6'2'', 260 — East HS, Salt Lake City

Much like his brother Taniela, Tennessee is finally joining Utah after serving his LDS mission. A two-time all-state player, Tennessee was a 4-star recruit by ESPN and 3-star by Rivals and 247sports. He was rated the No. 6 player in the state by 247sports and No. 8 by Rivals. He is one of four Pututau brothers on the roster.

*Taniela Pututau, DL — 6'3'', 228 — Cottonwood HS, Salt Lake City

Pututau originally signed with the Utes in 2017 before serving his LDS church mission. He missed his senior season with an injury, so he hasn't played the game in three years, but could make an instant impact at the next level. He is one of four Pututau brothers on the roster.

*Hunter Lotulelei, OG — 6'3'', 322 — Highland HS, Salt Lake City

Lotulelei finally joins the Utes after originally signing in 2018 before serving in his LDS mission. He was rated a 4-star recruit by Rivals and a 3-star recruit by 247sports, and the No. 6 player in Utah by Rivals and No. 8 by 247sports.

*Money Parks, WR — 5'10, 164 — Aledo HS, Aledo, Texas

An extreme athlete who could see action immediately on special teams, Parks was a 3-star recruit by 247Sports, Rivals and ESPN. A first-team all-state player as a junior in Texas, Parks finished his senior season with 58 receptions for 1,023 yards (17.6 ypc) and 17 receiving touchdowns, including 12 kick returns for 235 yards (19.6 ypr). Also a track star, Parks will be playing for the state title this weekend.

*Ben Renfro, S — 6'1'', 187 — Magnolia HS, Magnolia, Texas

Renfro might be the best athlete in the class, after dominating in Texas the past two years. Renfro, who was the 2019 District 8-5A Utility Player of the Year and two-time first-team all-district selection, is rated a 3-star recruit by 247Sports, ESPN and Rivals. He finished his junior and senior seasons with a combined 87 catches for 1,605 yards (18.4 ypc) and 24 touchdowns, including and 18.3 yards per kick return.

*Al Harrison, OL — 6'4'', 333 — Viewmont HS, Bountiful, Utah

Harrison is a two-time first-team all-state selection as a junior and senior who's rated a 3-star recruit by 247Sports, Rivals and ESPN and the No. 4 recruit in the state by Rivals and No. 5 by 247Sports. Harrison has the size the head coach Kyle Whittingham loves to see, and if he can develop more athletically, look for him to make an impact in a year or two.

*Tyler Wegis, DL — 6'7'', 200 — San Juan Hills HS, Ladera Ranch, California

Wegis has the height but is still lacking the weight to make an instant impact, but the good news is that he's uber-athletic and has the frame to add on a ton of weight and still stay as an elite-level athlete. He was rated a 3-star recruit by 247Sports and Rivals. he finished his senior season with 92 total tackles (37.0 TFL, 10.5 sacks), including three passes defended, two fumble recoveries, three fumbles forced and a blocked PAT.

*Ty Jordan, RB — 5'7'', 192 — West Mesquite HS, Mesquite, Texas

A two-sport athlete (football, T&F) out of Texas, Jordan is a 4-star recruit by ESPN, 3-star recruit by 247Sports and Rivals. He's rated as the No. 8 all-purpose back in the country on 247Sports, showing off his versatility his senior season when he racked up 86 carries for 572 yards (6.7 ypc) and six touchdowns, adding 48 receptions for 480 yards (10.0 ypc) and four receiving touchdowns. As a junior, he showcased his skills as a pure running back, finishing with 160 carries for 1,240 rushing yards (7.8 ypc) and 15 rushing touchdowns.

*Caine Savage, CB — 5'11'', 170 — Western HS, Buena Park, California

A 3-star recruit by 247Sports, Rivals and ESPN, Savage didn't get tested much in the secondary as a senior because opposing quarterbacks refused to throw his way. He finished his senior year with 17 tackles, five interceptions (including a pick six), two passes defended, one forced fumble and a blocked kick, but it's his junior year where he shined, finishing with 87 tackles, eight interceptions (one pick six), 26 passes defended and a forced fumble. He could see action on both sides of the ball as a Ute, as Savage had 4.704 all-purpose yards, including 220 catches (46 touchdowns) for 3,567 receiving yards, 41 carries for 338 rushing yards and 15 kick returns for 495 yards (33 ypr) and three touchdowns over his junior and senior season.

*Graham Faloona, LB — 6'3'', 201 — Carroll Senior HS, Southlake, Texas

Faloona is rated a 3-star recruit by 247Sports and Rivals who has the athleticism and size to fill out and become a starter for the Utes. Expect him to put on 30+ pounds while still maintaining his elite athleticism to become a contributor for the Utes. He was a busy player in high school, racking up 340 tackles 13 tackles for loss and 5 sacks in his three years on varsity.

*Kamo'i Latu, S — 6', 185 — Saint Louis School, Honolulu, Hawaii

Latu, who is a 3-star recruit by 247Sports, Rivals and ESPN, doesn't necessarily have the stats to back up his rating. But that's because St. Louis was rarely challenged en route to three consecutive undefeated seasons from 2017-19. A dual-sport athlete, Latu shows off his explosiveness by taking third in the state triple jump in both 2018 and 2019.

*Nate Ritchie, S — 6'2'', 200 — Lone Peak HS, Cedar Hills, Utah

Another hometown hero for the Utes as Ritchie, a two-time first-team all-state nominee, elects to stay home for the Utes. Ritchie is a 3-star recruit by 247Sports, Rivals and ESPN, while being the No. 4 recruit out of the state of Utah by 247Sports. The local kid had a big senior season as he amassed 51 tackles (5.0 TFL, 1.0 sack), eight interceptions (three touchdowns) and seven passes defended. For his career, he collected 18 interceptions in three years while returning three of them for touchdowns.

*Aliki Vimahi, DL — 6'4'', 247 — Kahuku HS, Kahuku HS

Vimahi will finally suit up for the Utes after serving his LDS church mission out of high school. As a senior, the first-team all-state player recorded 20.5 tackles, six sacks and a fumble recovery. He also dominated in the opening half of the 2017 Polynesian Bowl against the nation's top recruits when he tallied two tackles for loss and one sack.

*Jaren Kump, OL — 6'5'', 266 — Herriman HS, Riverton, Utah

Like some of his fellow classmates, Kump will join the Utes after serving an LDS church mission. Kump, a 3-star recruit by 247sports and Rivals and the No. 9 recruit in the state by 247sports and No. 10 by Rivals, averaged five pancake blocks a game as a senior in a dominating season. Not the biggest of linemen, Kump has the frame to add weight while still hang on to his athleticism. He won the shot put at the 2017 Utah State Championships and the discus state title in 2018.

*Sione Fotu, LB — 6', 220 — Bingham HS, West Jordan, Utah

Utah fans will have to wait a few years before seeing Fotu put on the Utes jersey as he will serve an LDS church mission prior to his enrollment at the University. Still, Fotu should be an instant impact player based on his size and strength. A 3-star recruit by 247sports, ESPN and Rivals and the No. 7 recruit in the state, Fotu finished with 90 tackles and two interceptions as a senior.

*Van Fillinger, DL — 6'4, 248 — Corner Canyon HS, Draper, Utah

The best recruit on the defensive side of the ball, Utah snagging Fillinger away from Texas was as big as it gets. Not only does it keep the No. 2 recruit in the state home, Fillinger is an immediate impact player from the moment he steps on campus. A two-time first-team all-state player, Fillinger was a 4-star prospect by 247Sports, Rivals and ESPN and the No. 11 strong side defensive end in the country by 247Sports. He capped his senior season with 88 tackles (24.0 TFL, 13.5 sacks) and a forced fumble while winning the 2019 state championship in shotput.

 *Connor O'Toole, WR — 6'4'', 207 — La Cueva HS, Albuquerque, New Mexico

After getting a shifty, explosive receiver in Parks, the Utah can now add a redzone target in O'Toole, the No. 1 recruit out of New Mexico. O'Toole, a consensus 3-star recruit on 247Sports and Rivals and a two-time first-team all-state performer, missed five games this past season due to an injury but still amassed 39 receptions with 683 yards (17.5 ypc) and eight touchdowns.

*Solatoa Moea'i, OL — 6'4'', 344 — Punahou School, Laie, Hawaii

With the Moea'i's signature, Utah now adds to its offensive line with another massive prospect, literally. Moeai, who is a 3-star recruit by 247Sports and Rivals and the No. 5 player in Hawaii by 247Sports, provides needed depth while showcasing the strength to contribute in a year or two

*Clark Phillips III, CB — 5'10'', 187 — La Habra HS, Lakewood, California

For one day, Fillinger was the top recruit on the defensive side of the ball — until Phillips switched his commitment from Ohio State to Utah on Thursday. Phillips, who was a 4-star recruit by 247Sports, Rivals and ESPN and the No. 4 cornerback in the country by 247Sports, should press for imediate playing time, if not start with 3/4 of the Utes' starting secondary leaving. Phillips was rarely tested as a senior, racking up 28 tackles, four interceptions and seven passes — but showed his athleticism on offense, finishing with 30 receptions for 435 yards (14.5 ypc) and 10 touchdowns.

*Xavier Carlton, DL — 6'6'', 259 — Juan Diego Catholic HS, Herriman, Utah

Carlton's addition to the Utah defensive line is huge, as he and Fillinger should provide immediate depth and challenge for playing time. Carlton has the size and athleticism to develop into an all-Pac-12 player after racking up 172 tackles and 14.5 sacks over the previous two seasons. Carlton is a 4-star recruit by 247Sports, Rivals and ESPN, and ranked as the No. 12 strongside defensive end in the country and No. 2 player in Utah by Rivals.

*Kenzel Lawler, CB — 6', 189 — Eleanor Roosevelt HS, Corona, Calif

The final signee of the early signing period is a good one for the Utes. Rated a 3-star recruit by ESPN, Rivals and 247sports, Lawler shows exceptional athleticism and promise after spending just one season at cornerback where he recorded 15 tackles, two interceptions and one fumble recovery. The dual-sport athlete (track and field) could also see action on the offensive side of the ball, but for now projects as a cornerback with great size who could develop a lot down the road.

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