Analyzing Utah's 2014 Signing Class
Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham summed up the Utes' 2014 signing day class in one word: SPEED. Across the board, the Utes focused in on what was arguably their biggest issue in year three of the Pac-12 – lack of speed, especially at certain skill positions (CB, S, WR).
The Utes bolstered their secondary with the addition of six defensive backs, three at safety and three at corner (not counting sign and send Amone Finau out of Kearns HS). Andre Godfrey is an elite safety out of Florida with tons of upside, picking Utah over UCLA and Wisconsin. I anticipate Godfrey immediately making the 2-deep, with plenty of opportunities to solidify his case for a starting role. One of the commits at corner is Casey Hughes out of Nevada, again picking Utah over some big time schools. Hughes is FAST, and while a bit raw, with a little bit of coaching and development could turn into a tremendous lockdown corner for the Utes.
On offense, wideouts Kaelin Clay and Kenric Young look to add speed to a position group that desperately needed a facelift after the 2013 campaign. With Kenneth Scott and Dres Anderson returning, the addition of Clay and Young will provide this new Dave Christensen spread offensive attack legitimacy right out of the gate – no team will be able to double a certain receiver for fear of someone just as quick breaking free of one on one coverage, which means good news for whoever starts at QB for the Utes in 2014.
And speaking of QB, Donovan Isom out of Louisiana brings a skill set to Utah specifically designed to run a spread offensive attack – both through the air and on the ground. There was a point halfway through his senior season that he had more touchdown passes than incompletions. Isom only through two interceptions all season while tossing 33 passes that went for scores.
There's a common theme to the 2014 recruiting class, and that theme is speed. Coach Whittingham and his staff made it abundantly clear that they need to upgrade the overall speed of their team, especially on the edges. The Utes ended up accomplishing that goal as they brought in numerous recruits that will help upgrade the overall team speed. Players like DJ Law, Tavaris Williams, Casey Hughes, Travonne Hobbs and many others, will provide a big boost to a program that was in dire need of more speed.
Utah was also very successful in the fact that they were able to establish a ton of relationships with high schools outside of their normal recruiting footprint. Utah brought in 7 players from Louisiana and Florida combined, states that are very well known for their ability to produce outstanding football players. These relationships will help the coaching staff continue to upgrade the talent in the coming years and will prove to big a huge asset to the program.
When you tie those factors in with the fact that they were able to sign local 4 star Jackson Barton, who could have played anywhere in the country; as well as Kaelin Clay and Tevin Carter, both of whom are expected to make an impact from day 1, and I would consider it a successful recruiting class for the Utes.
Overall it is a solid class for the Utes. They addressed some needs and got the speed/athleticism that was much needed in this class. The skill positions were the main focus, and I believe the Utah coaches did a great job in that area. No there aren't many high rated players that a lot of people drool over because of their star ranking, but there are a few kids that I believe have a very high ceiling.
Utah was able to fight off some big time programs for a lot of these guys, and for Utah to keep them from flipping to a different program was huge. Utah did have their share of misses with guys such as Frison and Schultz, but if the Utes are able to pile up a few more wins each season, more of these battles will start going Utah's way. While only a handful of this class will see playing time this upcoming season, the Utes are in good hands with this class moving forward.
Needs. Utah addressed them well in this class. While it may not have the top end talent that some were hoping for, this class addressed many needs, added Pac 12 depth, and a lot of high ceiling players. The talent level at Utah will be better in 2014 than in 2013, and that's the goal in recruiting.
Utah's push into the South was very impressive, and that doesn't happen without the contacts of Dennis Erickson, combined with the tireless efforts of Kalani Sitake and Brian Johnson to develop relationships. Quite the coup for Utah to land five guys from the state of Florida, all of whom could get time as freshmen. Add in the Louisiana kids and the pipeline is not only built, but flowing with jambalaya from the Boot and sweet orange juice from the Sunshine State. There's no reason to think the 2015 class and beyond won't continue pumping out players from that area that end up Utah.
Biggest gripe with this class? In-state misses for top players. Utah landed only one of the top players within its own state, but did get a good one in Jackson Barton. The Kenyon Frison loss was a tough blow because of his upside, but the Utes snagged a bunch of high ceiling sign and sends that will serve missions and return as men. How more schools weren't in on guys like Kyle Christiansen is shocking, but it's to the benefit of Utah, so it's hard to complain.
The speed in the 2014 class is impressive. It was apparent last year that Utah was slow. Casey Hughes, Tavaris Williams, DJ Law, and others instantly make this team faster. Kaelin Clay might already be the fastest guy on the team. This is Pac 12 level speed.
Overall, this is a solid class. Not bad. Not great, but Utah did the most important things things they needed to do: Added speed and addressed needs. Success.
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