Utah’s unconventional approach paid dividends with a top 40 class.
Wednesday’s National Signing Day proved to be fruitful for the Utes. Heading into the day, Utah’s class was formidable – after all Jack Tuttle is on campus – but by Kyle Whittingham’s four o’clock press conference, the group was downright impressive. By day’s end, 247Sports ranked the 2018 class 34th overall and 5th best in the Pac-12 conference. According to 247 Sports, it’s the third straight year Whittingham’s club has finished in the 30s and highest Pac-12 ranking since committing to the league in 2010.
The Early Signing Period netted just six signees on the hill, counter to the national trend. Consider that 369 players are regarded as blue-chip prospects (four- and five-stars) in the 247Sports Composite, and 279 of them signed on the dotted line before Christmas (Three-quarters of the country’s elite recruits).
Whittingham acknowledged in his presser that Utah was behind after the first signing window, “A higher percentage of signees in the early period than we anticipated. Some services have as much at 75% of the signees signed during that early period. We were more like 50%.”
But that cut the other way. Leaving the work late, the Utes stayed in the game for two four-star blue-chips – Penei Sewell and Solomon Enis. Although Sewell ended up signing with Oregon, Enis chose Utah over Penn State. With the transfer of Raelon Singleton, Enis’s decision is especially important.
Additionally, the extra time allowed time to find the diamonds in the rough. Whittingham told Bill Riley there’s no rougher than Thomas Yassmin. An Australian rugby player, Yassmin visited Salt Lake on February 2nd. With a UCLA offer to boot, he chose Utah four days later.
For a team that lost both of their starting linebackers and three defensive linemen, replenishing the coffers was paramount. Whittingham said he expects to see nearly half of the 14 defensive players contribute next fall.
Director of Recruiting Bobby Blechen joined Gunther & Hackett and explained how the Utes earned their fifth top 40 recruiting class in the last 10 years, “We followed our approach of years past on targeting the guys we wanted and be willing to wait for them. Not panicking to sign guys for that December signing period.”
Stars matter, and the fact that two blue-chips and a bevy of future solid contributors chose Utah bodes well for the future.