Fall is closing in fast, and it is time to start breaking down the Beehive State and the best prospects at each position. These rankings are solely based off of my evaluations from spring and last year's game tape. Evaluations are fluid and things will be reevaluated dozens of times between now and the end of the 2014 football season.
My categories are defined as the following: "Top Tier" which means the prospects in that group are D1 bound. The next group is "Next Level Guys" which means the prospects in that group are not definite D1 scholarship guys, but have a shot and certainly belong at some level of college football. And lastly, is the "Keep An Eye On" which are the guys that have potential to play in college and are on the radar at some level.
Top Tier Offensive Linemen
1) Andre James- James is a great offensive linemen with tremendous upside. At 6-4 1/2 275 pounds, James is incredibly lean and doesn't have an ounce of bad weight to him. He displays good technique, he plays the game with nastiness, and he is a great all-around athlete. James is explosive and has potential to play a few different positions at the next level. James will easily be able to pack on 15-25 pounds of good mass in college. As defenses in football continue to evolve with more speed, James is the ideal linemen to counteract the new-age pass rushers. He is also an elite shot putter, which only adds to his impressive body of work.
2) James Empey- Empey is exactly what an O-Line coach looks for in his interior linemen. The American Fork guard has Ivy-League intelligence fused with a blue-collared toughness. Empey loves the game of football and it really shows when you watch him. His foot work is just about flawless and his hand placement is on par with his feet. Empey's size is the biggest issue right now, but at just a shade under 6-4 260 pounds, he isn't far off. I could easily see Empey starting 30+ games at the next level and being an all-conference caliber guy as an upperclassmen. He is the real deal and will make a team significantly better when he returns from his LDS mission.
3) Branden Bowen- Bowen's upside is just about off the charts. At 6-7 315 pounds, he has the ideal frame to play left tackle. Bowen has made major strength gains this off-season and has gone from an unknown with zero offers to a big time prospect. It will be interesting to see how Bowen looks this fall. As a junior his tape was inconsistent. He showed the ability to move well for his size, but he lacked some of the killer instinct you look for in the trenches. He has put in the work and looks like he could be ready to have a breakout year. Bowen is as intriguing as any prospect in my region.
4) Keaton Bills- Bills is going into his junior year and he is really impressive. Next year, I can't see anyone in Utah surpassing him as the top linemen. He is the left tackle at Corner Canyon (Bowen plays right tackle) and Bills plays the game the right way. He is fast, tough, and athletic. Bills could end up on the defensive side of the ball, but with his length and skill set, left tackle could be his money maker. Bills is 6-5 250 pounds and has a wing span like Rajon Rondo. Bills is a fantastic student as well, and should have a lot of schools pursuing him.
Next Level Guys
5) Donald Wilkinson- At 6-6 300 pounds, Wilkinson looks the part. He has good length and looks like a big time tackle. He has the ability to be a good college football player. As of now, his flexibility limits him a little bit. He doesn't bend as well as a left tackle should, and needs to improve there before getting reps at the D1 level. Wilkinson may be a project, but he has a lot of the needed tools to be a solid tackle at the next level. His junior tape is pretty good. If he takes some strides this fall, he could be bumped up to the top tier group.
Keep An Eye On