(ABC4) – For the most part, the ink is dry on college football’s early signing day, when top high school recruits make their choice where they’ll play at the next level.
The headlining move of the day nationally was a landmark signing by former NFL star and current Jackson State University head coach Deion Sanders. ‘Coach Prime’ landed five-star defensive back Travis Hunter to his HBCU program. Hunter’s flip from traditional power Florida State (which happens to be Sanders’ alma mater) raised plenty of eyebrows. It’s virtually unheard of in the modern age of college football for an HBCU team to ‘flip’ or turn a top-rated player away from a powerhouse program.
At the local level, Utah, BYU, and Utah State also turned in their early recruiting classes with the hopes of continuing their run as 10-win teams, as they all accomplished for the first time together in 2021.
Several of the top high schoolers in the state also made noise by choosing to either stay in the state, such as Corner Canyon’s Cody Hagen, a commit to BYU, or head elsewhere to continue their playing careers, like Hagen’s teammate, Devin Brown, who will be going to Ohio State.
Here’s a round-up of Utah, BYU, and Utah State’s recruiting pulls as well as where some of the top youngsters in the state will be suiting up next:
Top-100 QB from California headlines Utah’s recruiting class
While the reigning Pac-12 champions seem to have a leader under center in quarterback Cam Rising, who was a first-team all-conference selection, the Utes’ heir apparent stayed true to a commitment he had made in June. Nate Johnson, the 96th-rated player in ESPN’s list of the top 300 players in the country, made his commitment official on Wednesday.
The four-star dual-threat QB from Clovis High School in Clovis, Calif. also had offers from Arizona State, Michigan, and Oregon State, but in the end, maintained his decision to attend Utah.
Brighton High star Lander Barton, brother of former Ute stars Cody and Jackson, also decided to continue his family’s legacy at Utah.
By the time the dust settled on Wednesday, the Utes had 20 new recruits to add to their roster (local high school players in bold):
DB Jocelyn Malaska, Bethany, Okla.
TE Logan Kendall, Cheney, Wash.
OL Tyler Knaak, Cottonwood Heights, Utah (Brighton High School)
DB Sione Vaki, Antioch, Calif.
ATH Carson Tabaracci, Park City, Utah (Park City High School)
LB Lander Barton, Cottonwood Heights (Brighton High School)
DB Elijah Davis, Winter Haven, Fla.
RB Jaylon Glover, Lakeland, Fla.
QB Nate Johnson, Clovis, Calif.
DL Dallas Vakalahi, West Valley City, Utah (West High School)
WR Tao Johnson, Idaho Falls, Idaho
OL Keith Olson, Napavine, Wash.
DL Keanu Tanuvasa, Mission Viejo, Calif.
DL Ka’eo Akana, Honolulu, Hawaii
DL Chase Kennedy, Dallas, Texas
TE Landon Morris, Indianapolis, Ind.
WR Chris Reed, Orlando, Fla.
WR Ryan Peppins, Birmingham, Ala.
QB Brandon Rose, Temecula, Calif.
LB Justin Medlock, Missouri City, Texas
BYU’s ’22 class dominated by homegrown stars
The Cougars, buoyed by the announcement of head coach Kalani Sitake’s ‘unprecedented’ contract extension, kept one of the state’s top recruits at home by pulling in Corner Canyon wide receiver Cody Hagen.
A four-star rated player from the Draper-based program, Hagen was a favorite target of the state’s top recruit, future Ohio State quarterback Devin Brown and was named the state’s Gatorade Player of the Year.
In addition to Hagen, Sitake and his staff swooped a bevy of homegrown talented receivers to headline a recruiting class almost entirely filled with in-state talent. BYU also landed a player with college experience in former Orem High offensive lineman Kingsley Suamataia, who suited up in one game for Oregon in 2021.
BYU celebrated the day by signing 19 new members to the squad (local players in bold):
TE Noah Moeaki, American Fork, Utah (American Fork High School)
OL Peter Falaniko, St. George, Utah (Pine View High School)
WR Parker Kingston, Layton, Utah (Roy High School)
DL Brooks Jones, Queen Creek, Arizona (American Leadership Academy)
DL Kaden Chidester, Richfield, Utah (Richfield High School)
ATH Dominique McKenzie, St. George, Utah (Pine View High School)
DL Cooper Ross, Mesa, Ariz. (Heritage High School)
OL Trevin Ostler, Bountiful, Utah (Bountiful High School)
WR Cody Hagen, Draper, Utah (Corner Canyon High School)
DL Aisea Moa, North Ogden, Utah (Weber High School)
ATH March McKenzie, St. George, Utah (Pine View High School)
CB Cannon DeVries, North Ogden, Utah (Weber High School)
LB/DB Liutai Kinikini, Herriman, Utah (West High School)
OL Vae Soifua, Orem, Utah (Orem High School)
LB Mika Kaufusi, Cottonwood Heights, Utah (Alta High School)
WR Jarinn Kalama, Honolulu, Hawaii (Wasatch High School)
OL Talin Togiai, Rigby, Idaho (Rigby High School)
LB Micah Wilson, Draper, Utah (Corner Canyon High School)
OL Kingsley Suamataia, Orem, Utah (Orem High School/Oregon)
Utah State brings in loads of transferring experience from a few major programs
The Aggies have always had to take unique approaches to recruiting, as they typically lose top in-state recruits to more consistently strong programs like BYU and Utah. For this year’s class, however, Utah State found success not only in attracting three-star talent but also in bringing in several highly-experienced transfers from a few surprising locations.
In terms of players ready to enroll at Logan with a blank slate of college-level experience, Utah State’s most exciting recruit may be dual-threat quarterback Bishop Davenport from Spring High School in Texas. Davenport was a district co-MVP and first-team selection after wrapping up his career with nearly 7,500 passing yards to go along with 77 touchdown passes and just 15 interceptions. Despite his impressive numbers, the 100th best QB in the country was lightly recruited out of high school.
The transfer class at Utah State is packed with experience. Safety Gurvan comes to Logan as a graduate transfer after playing four years at Miami, where he suited up in 43 games with 18 starts for the Hurricanes. Linebacker Anthony Switzer will now play for the Aggies after three seasons at Arkansas State, head coach Blake Anderson’s previous stop. Former Alta High star MJ Tafisi returns to the state after four years at Washington, rounding out the group.
In total, Utah State added 14 names to the roster on Wednesday (local players in bold):
LB Max Alford, Park City, Utah (Park City High School)
OL Teague Andersen, Lehi, Utah (Lehi High School)
RB Robert Briggs, Bellville, Texas
QB Bishop Davenport, Spring, Texas
DE Paul Fitzgerald, Idaho Falls, Idaho
LB Lofa Fonoti-Maikui, Layton, Utah (Northridge High School)
OL Weylin Lapuaho, South Jordan, Utah (Bingham High School)
OL Sione Motu’apuaka, Honolulu, Hawaii
DT Adam Tomczyk, Los Alamitos, Calif.
QB Chase Tuatagaloa, Orem, Utah (Orem High School)
LB Joshua Williams, Mesquite, Texas
S Gurvan Hall, West Palm Beach, Fla.
LB Anthony Switzer, Marion, Ark.
LB MJ Tafisi, West Jordan, Utah (Alta High School/Washington)