Utah focuses on D line, backs and QBs

Utah used national signing day to load up on defensive linemen,

running backs and quarterbacks as those were the three most

pressing needs for a team coming off a 5-7 season.

The Utes lost three starters along the defensive line in Star

Lotulelei, and Dave and Joe Kruger. They signed a handful at the

position, including two from Trinity High School in Euless, Texas –

6-foot-5 defensive end Sam Tevi and 6-5 defensive tackle Keio

Vaenuku. The Utes added 6-4 offensive tackle Salesi Uhatafe, also

from Trinity.

With just one quarterback returning who has played a college

game, the Utes signed three prep stars in Brandon Cox, Conner

Manning and Micah Thomas.

Utah returns Travis Wilson and Adam Schulz, both freshmen last

season, at quarterback.

Utah also signed four running backs as the Utes aim to replace

John White.

Devontae Booker, a junior college transfer from California, is

expected to push Kelvin York.

The Utes needed help at cornerback, having lost both starters

and their nickel back. They added one-time Cal signee Tevin Carter

and JC transfer Davion Orphey.

”We helped ourselves with speed and size,” said coach Kyle

Whittingham, addressing areas that were notable deficiencies in

making the jump to the Pac-12 Conference two years ago.

The Utes have only three Utah players in this year’s recruiting

class but Whittingham said others cannot be announced yet as they

are headed on church missions first.

”There are some Pac-12 schools that did very well, the usual

suspects,” Whittingham said. ”I think we’re holding our own. It’s

a process.

”The NFL is full of guys who have come through here and weren’t

five-star kids.”

Whittingham said he was able to lure three quarterbacks because

it is more appealing to be competing against each other as opposed

to well-established players.

He also said the flip-flopping of Aaron Roderick had no impact

on recruiting. Roderick is Utah’s receivers and passing game

coordinator, and a day after accepting a position at his alma mater

Brigham Young in mid-January, opted to return to Utah.

”I’m just glad he’s here,” Whittingham said.