James Durrant, UteZone

Analysis: Utes land four star safety

Utah landed a big commitment from a coveted JUCO prospect

As signing day approaches, Utah continues to gain momentum coming down the home stretch. They hosted a handful of talented prospects over the weekend, and the visit weekend is already starting to pay dividends. On Sunday, the Utes received the commitment from Dodge City safety/linebacker Marquise Blair.

This is a very good pickup for the Utes, as Blair held offers from schools like Michigan State, Syracuse, Louisville, and Missouri. He’s a dynamic playmaker with very good size at 6 foot 3 inches and 200 pounds. He was originally a 4-star safety coming out of high school and committed to Syracuse before he was forced to go the JUCO route.

What He Brings to the Table

Blair has been a priority recruit for defensive coordinator Morgan Scalley since early fall. Blair is an athletic, aggressive, attacking defender that has the athleticism to play safety and the tenacity to play linebacker. He reads plays and makes a decision quickly, which is a huge positive. His athleticism allows to blow past linemen as he attacks downhill, while also showing the ability to change direction in coverage. His athleticism alone is a huge addition, but it’s his playing style and tenacity that is really what makes Blair so good.

The addition of Blair gives Utah flexibility in their approach to the safety position this fall. Blair can step in at strong safety to spell starter Chase Hansen. If he proves ready, he could even allow the Utes to move Hansen up to a linebacker position. In the Utes' 4-2-5 defense, they’ll be able to play Chase Hansen and Blair together to cover receivers in the slot, with Corrion Ballard playing center field over the top. This configuration will enable the Utes to disguise a number of coverage looks and blitz packages.

What He Means for the Class

With free safety Corrion Ballard, the safety position wasn’t necessarily a big need for the overall class, but Blair was good enough to warrant the attention, and the Utes were looking to take him regardless of what the numbers said. Defensive Coordinator Morgan Scalley deserves a lot of credit for his recruitment of Blair. Dodge City hasn't traditionally been a strong recruiting ground for the Utes, and Scalley spent a lot of time in Kansas and Blair's hometown of Wooster, Ohio to sell him on his future in the program. The Utes lost a fair amount of experience on the back end of the defense, so replacing that with a talented versatile player like Blair was almost a must. The Utes are done recruiting at safety, but look for them to continue to push for a high school linebacker and defensive backs. 

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