As the Utes head into the December dead period and the midyear signing period approaches, Utah coaches still have a lot of work to do to close out the signing class - especially on the defensive side of the ball. Today, UteZone breaks down the latest with defensive recruits, including where Utah stands and who they're still targeting.
Current 2017 Roster Projection: Kylie Fitts (SR), Bradlee Anae (SO), Chris Hart (SO), Maxs Tupai (rFR)
What’s Next: Defensive end is still a huge need for the class, particularly long-levered edge rushers with speed. Four star local Tayler Katoa is a hybrid LB/DE type, which is why we've included him here instead of linebacker. Utah is trying to actively flip players committed to other schools, including Juliano Falaniko (USC) and Joe Tryon (Wazzu),. The Utes are also after a number of players that could potentially serve LDS missions (Lolohea, Tofa, Vimahi, Batty, etc.). Don't be surprised if we see new names emerge in January as Utah re-evaluates where they stand with targets as the all-important January visit weekends approach.
Current 2017 Roster Projection: Lowell Lotulelei (SR), Filipo Mokofisi (SR), Alani Havili-Katoa (JR), John Penisini (SO), Leki Fotu (SO), Vaha Vainuku (SO), Hautai Pututau (rFR), Pita Tonga (rFR), Khyiris Tonga (FR)
What’s Next: Things are shaping up nicely for Utah at the defensive tackle position in 2017, especially if Lowell Lotulelei decides to return for his senior year. Utah already has John Penisini in the mix, and he'll come to SLC as a sophomore with three years to play three. The Utes are still pursuing two highly touted tackles in Jay Tufele and Noah Elliss. Tufele is the top recruit on Utah's board, and the staff has expended a lot of effort to land him. Word on the street is that he's listening. Keep an eye on Elliss, who has the Utes among his favorites. Beyond those two, the Utes are likely done at the position.
Current 2017 Roster Projection: Sunia Tauteoli (SR), Kavika Luafatasaga (SR), Cody Barton (JR), Kurtis Taufa (JR)*, Donovan Thompson (SO), Jake Jackson (SO), Davir Hamilton (rFR), Quinn Fabrizio (FR), TJ Kautai (FR)
What’s Next: It's clear that Utah struggled with depth at the linebacker position this season, and they're looking to address it on the recruiting trail. Utah has been in hot pursuit of JUCO standout Marquise Blair, who won't sign until late in the process. Former USC commit Daniel Green is another player to watch, as he plans to visit SLC in January. Miami commit DeAndre Wilder plans on visiting in January as well. Local standout Levani Damuni has been a top target for several months now, and the Utes will try to hold off several other Pac-12 programs for him. Look for the Utes to take two players at the position, depending on how the dominoes fall in January.
Current 2017 Roster Projection: Boobie Hobbs (SR), Tyrone Smith (JR), Tareke Lewis (JR), Casey Hughes (JR), Julian Blackmon (SO), Terrell Burgess (SO), Nygel King (rFR), Jaylon Johnson (FR)
What’s Next: Cornerback was by far Utah's biggest need on defense and the Utes are out to a fantastic start filling the need, with four star corners Jaylon Johnson and Tareke Lewis committed. Both are still planning on taking visits to other schools, so the Utes will need to play defense until signing day, but it's reasonable to expect the Utes to hang on to them. The Utes are still pushing hard for Bama commit Jhavonte Dean, and should get official word on what he plans to do soon. They're also pushing hard for high profile high school corners Dommodore Lenoir and Elijah Blades, but both are longshots at best. Keep an eye on speedster Javelin Guidry, who will visit in January and would be a fantastic addition to the position group.
Current 2017 Roster Projection: Marcus Williams (SR), Jordan Fogal (SR), Andre Godfrey (SR), Chase Hansen (JR), Philip Afia (SO), Tyson Cisrow (SO), Samson Nacua (rFR)
What’s Next: Safety isn't a huge need in this class, even if Marcus Williams declares for the draft, which isn't a sure thing. The major focus of Utah's recruiting efforts is on Blinn College safety Corrion Ballard, who will make his final decision this week. Utah has a very good shot at landing him, despite recent efforts from Oklahoma State to get in the game. Taniela Pututau is a sign and send, and he's expected to visit in January.