Kyle Whittingham adds strong local flavor on National Signing Day

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SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Sports) – The Utes may have lost out on the top local recruit, Orem’s Noah Sewell who signed with Oregon. But Kyle Whittingham feels he was able to get plenty of top tier local talent on National Signing Day.

Corner Canyon 4-star defensive end Van Fillinger, who decommitted from Texas, chose Utah over Michigan, Oregon and LSU.

The Utes also inked Lone Peak’s 3-star safety Nate Ritchie, along with Viewmont 3-star offensive lineman Alex Harrison.

In all, seven local players, including return missionaries, signed with Utah on Wednesday.

“We do the best we can to keep those guys at home,” Whittingham said. “We had an excellent year in state. We think when all is said and done, we’re going to come away with five of the top six players in the state of Utah, which is huge. I think that’s the first time that’s happened for a lot of years.”

The Utes also brought in South Carolina grad transfer quarterback Jake Bentley, who started 33 games for the Gamecocks before getting hurt at the start of his senior season. Bentley will compete with Cam Rising for the starting job next season, with this year’s backup Jason Shelley most likely moving to defensive back.

“Jake is a big addition for us,” Whittingham said. “He’s got a big arm, and is more of a pro-style guy. He played in the SEC and put up 500 yards in one game against Clemson, which is a pretty good accomplishment. He came out on a visit, loved it, committed on the visit and we’re excited that he’s going to be joining us.”

Among the other local players Utah signed were Highland High offensive lineman Hunter Lotulelei, Cottonwood defensive lineman Taniela Pututau, East defensive lineman Tennessee Pututau, Herriman offensive lineman Jaren Kump and Bingham linebacker Sione Fotu.

2020 UTAH FOOTBALL RECRUITING CLASS

Jake Bentley
Quarterback
6-4, 220, Sr.
TR
Lexington, S.C.
South Carolina

Graduate transfer from South Carolina started in every game he appeared in (33), playing in just one game in 2019 due to injury … led the Gamecocks to the Belk Bowl (2018) and the Outback Bowl (2017) during his time as a starter, earning Outback Bowl MVP as a sophomore … 19-14 career record as a starter including a 10-7 record in SEC games … ranks second in South Carolina history in career completion percentage (.625), third in career pass completions (626) and passing touchdowns (55), fourth in career passing yards (7,527) and is fifth in career total offense (7,670) … two-year team captain (2017-18) … suffered a season-ending injury in the opening game of 2019 vs. North Carolina after passing for 142 yards (1 TD) … started 12 games in 2018 (missing the Missouri game with an injury), passing for 3,171 yards on 240-of-388 passing (14 INT, 27 TD), averaging 264.3 passing yards per game … ranked fourth in the SEC in passing yards per game and touchdown passes in 2018 … second in school history in single-season touchdowns (27), third in passing yards (3,171), fourth in touchdowns responsible for (29) and sixth in completions (240) in 2018 … completed a school-record five passes of 70 yards or more in 2018 … 22-for-32 for 363 yards and two touchdowns while rushing for the game-winning touchdown against Ole Miss his junior season … set program records with 510 passing yards and five touchdowns (tie) against Clemson in 2018 … 2017-18 SEC Sportsmanship Award winner … started all 13 games in 2017 as a sophomore, going 245-of-394 passing (12 INT, 18 TD) for 2,794 passing yards … ranked second in the SEC in pass completions and pass attempts, sixth in passing yards per game (214.9) and pass completion percentage, and was tied for fourth in touchdown passes in 2017 … season high as a sophomore was 304 yards passing against Kentucky, throwing 24-for-36 with two touchdowns … started the final seven games of his freshman season in 2016, going 125-for-190 passing for 1,420 yards and nine touchdowns (4 INT) … graduated a year early from Opelika HS (Ala.), playing two seasons after transferring from Byrnes HS (S.C.) after his freshman season … threw for 2,834 yards and 28 touchdowns (8 INT) in his final year … named all-state as a punter (38.4 avg., 10 punts inside the 20-yard line) as a junior … Under Armour All-American game … son of Paulette and Bobby Bentley … three brothers and a sister … comes from a football family: father is South Carolina’s tight ends coach, stepbrother Chas Dodd played quarterback at Rutgers and is a strength coach at Miami and brother Shuler played football at Murray State and is a graduate assistant on the Troy football staff … earned a degree in sport and entertainment management from South Carolina.

Graham Faloona
Linebacker
6-3, 201, Fr.
HS
Southlake, Texas
Carroll Senior HS

Three-star recruit by 247Sports and Rivals from Carroll Senior HS … 141 total tackles (4.0 TFL, 2.0 sacks) with two passes defended, one forced fumble and a fumble recovery as a senior … 119 tackles (2.0 TFL, 1.0 sack) along with a safety, two passes defended and two forced fumbles his junior season … 80 tackles (7.0 TFL, 2.0 sacks) with two passes defended, a fumble recovery and a forced fumble as a sophomore … also competed in track … son of Kimberly Faloona … pronounced fuh-LEW-nah

Van Fillinger
Defensive Line
6-4, 248, Fr.
HS
Draper, Utah
Corner Canyon HS

Two-time first-team all-state at Corner Canyon HS … two-time all-region, earning first-team honors in 2018 … four-star recruit by 247Sports, Rivals and ESPN … rated the No. 11 strong side defensive end in the country by 247Sports and the No. 2 player in the state of Utah … invited to play in the 2020 All-American Bowl and the 2020 Polynesian Bowl … Corner Canyon went 37-1 with Fillinger on the field, winning two state championships, 5A in 2018 and 6A in 2019 … 88 tackles (24.0 TFL, 13.5 sacks) and one forced fumble as a senior … 65 tackles (11.0 TFL, 5.0 sacks) with three interceptions, two passes defended and two fumbles recovered his junior year … 35 tackles (2.0 TFL, 4.0 sacks) with one interception and two fumbles recovered his sophomore season … also competed in track and field, winning the state shot put championship in 2019 … pronounced fill-IN-jur.

Sione Fotu
Linebacker
6-0, 220, Fr.
HS
West Jordan, Utah
Bingham HS

First-team all-state as a senior at Bingham HS … three-star recruit (247Sports, Rivals, ESPN) … ranked No. 7 overall recruit in the state of Utah by 247Sports… invited to the 2020 Polynesian Bowl … 90 tackles and two interceptions as a senior … 40 tackles (2.0 sacks) his junior year … 21 tackles as a sophomore … will serve an LDS church mission before enrolling at Utah … pronounced see-OH-nay foe-too.

Alex Harrison
Offensive Line
6-4, 333, Fr.
HS
Bountiful, Utah
Viewmont HS

Three-time all-state selection at Viewmont HS, earning first-team honors as a junior and senior … two-time first-team all-region … 2018 first-team All-USA Utah Football … three-star recruit by 247Sports, Rivals and ESPN … ranked the fourth overall recruit in the state by Rivals and fifth by 247Sports … invited to the Pro Football Hall of Fame World Bowl … started on the offensive and defensive line at Viewmont … first played on the offensive line as a sophomore … 50 tackles (8.0 TFL, 3.0 sacks) with three blocked field goals on defense and graded out at 97-percent on offense as a senior with 34 pancake blocks … 35 tackles (2.0 sacks), two passes defended, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery his junior season … 27 tackles (4.0 TFL, 3.0 sacks) as a sophomore … recorded 15 tackles his freshman year … also competed in shot put in track and field … son of Scott and Christy.

Ty Jordan
Running Back
5-7, 192, Fr.
HS
Mesquite, Texas
West Mesquite HS

First-team all-district at West Mesquite HS as a junior … four-star recruit by ESPN, three-star recruit by 247Sports and Rivals … rated the No. 8 all-purpose back in the country on 247Sports … 13 100-yard rushing games in high school … 86 carries for 572 yards (6.7 ypc) and six touchdowns, adding 48 receptions for 480 yards (10.0 ypc) and four receiving touchdowns as a senior … 160 carries for 1,240 rushing yards (7.8 ypc) and 15 rushing touchdowns his junior year, also recording 14 receptions for 169 yards (12.1 ypc) and two receiving touchdowns with 10 kick returns for 217 yards (21.7 ypr) … 101 carries for 777 yards (7.7 ypc) and six rushing touchdowns, adding six receptions for 158 yards and two touchdowns as a sophomore … also competed in track and field.

Jaren Kump
Offensive Line
6-5, 266, Fr.
HS
Riverton, Utah
Herriman HS
Served an LDS church mission before enrolling in school … first-team all-state as a senior at Herriman HS (Utah) … two-time all-region earning first-team honors in 2017 … 2017 All-Salt Lake Tribune team … 2017 first-team All-USA Utah Football team … three-star recruit by 247sports and Rivals … rated the No. 9 recruit in the state by 247sports and No. 10 by Rivals … averaged five pancake blocks a game as a senior … also played defense for Herriman and had 33 tackles with 4.0 TFL, 2.5 sacks and two passes defended in 2017 … 22 tackles (2.0 TFL, 2.0 sacks) and one fumble recovery as a junior … played as a sophomore on Herriman’s 2015 5A state championship team … also competes in track … won the shot put at the 2017 Utah State Championships and the discus state title in 2018 … also played basketball.

Kamo’i Latu
Safety
6-0, 185, Fr.
HS
Honolulu, Hawai’i
Saint Louis School

2019 first-team ILH as a senior at Saint Louis School … first-team all-state as a junior … two-time ILH Open All-Star, earning first-team honors as a senior … three-star recruit by 247Sports, Rivals and ESPN … invited to the 2020 Polynesian Bowl … 10 tackles (1.0 TFL), two interceptions, one fumble recovery and one pass breakup as a senior … produced four interceptions and a fumble recovery in the playoffs his junior year … Saint Louis School won went undefeated three-straight seasons from 2017-2019, winning the Open Division State Championship four-straight seasons … also participated in track and field, finishing third in the state in the triple jump in both 2018 and 2019 … pronounced kah-MOE-ee LAH-too.

Hunter Lotulelei
Offensive Line
6-3, 322, Fr.
HS
West Valley City, Utah
Highland HS

Originally signed in 2018 before leaving on an LDS church mission … first-team all-state as a senior at Highland HS (Utah) … 2017 first-team all-region … 2017 second-team All-USA Utah Football team … 2018 Polynesian Bowl … 2017 U.S. Army National Combine second-team all-combine … four-star recruit by Rivals and a three-star recruit by 247sports … rated the No. 6 player in Utah by Rivals and No. 8 by 247sports … two-year starter at Highland HS … also played rugby … cousin of former Utah players Star and Lowell Lotulelei … Star earned first-team All-America honors and was a two-time first-team All-Pac-12 defensive tackle (2010-12) and has played seven years in the NFL for the Carolina Panthers (2013-17) and Buffalo Bills (2018-19) … Lowell was a four-time All-Pac-12 defensive tackle and 2014 Freshman All-American (2014-17) … pronounced low-too-LEH-lay.

Money Parks
Wide Receiver
5-10, 164, Fr.
HS
Aledo, Texas
Aledo HS

First-team all-state and all-district as a junior at Fort Worth All Saints … played his senior and sophomore seasons at Aledo HS … three-star recruit by 247Sports, Rivals and ESPN … invited to the Blue-Grey All-American Bowl … 58 receptions for 1,023 yards (17.6 ypc) and 17 receiving touchdowns as a senior at Aledo, adding 12 kick returns for 235 yards (19.6 ypr) … 936 all-purpose yards included 691 receiving yards (51 catches, 13.5 ypc) and eight touchdowns as a junior at All Saints Episcopal … 13 kick returns for 215 yards (16.5 ypr) his junior season … 31 catches for 429 yards (13.8 ypc) and six touchdowns as a sophomore at Aledo … Aldeo was the state runners up in 2017 and will play in the 2019 state championship game … also competed in track … full name is Monterren Parks.

Taniela Pututau
Defensive Line
6-3, 228, Fr.
HS
Salt Lake City
Cottonwood HS

Originally signed with Utah in 2017 before serving an LDS church mission … 2015 first-team all-region 3 as a junior at Cottonwood HS (Utah) … missed his senior season with an injury … 24 tackles and three fumble recoveries his junior year … also played receiver and had 29 catches for 283 yards and a touchdown in 2015 … 18 receptions for 337 yards and three touchdowns as a sophomore … son of Howard and Taina Pututao (pronounced poo-too-tau) … four Pututau brothers will be on the Utah roster in 2020: junior defensive tackle Hauati, freshman Fua and Tennessee (who is also returning from a church mission this year) … pronounced tah-KNEE-ell-uh poo-TOO-tau.

Tennessee Pututau
Defensive Line
6-2, 260, Fr.
HS
Salt Lake City
East HS

Served an LDS church mission before enrolling in school … two-time all-state, earning first-team honors as a senior … two-time first-team all-region … 2018 Polynesian Bowl … 2017 first-team All-USA Utah Football team … four-star recruit by ESPN and three star by Rivals and 247sports … rated the No. 6 player in the state by 247sports and No. 8 by Rivals … led the state in sacks (18.5) and ranked sixth in tackles (136) as a senior at East HS … 27 solo tackles with five sacks in 2016 … son of Howard Sr. and Taina Pututau … one of eight children … four Pututau brothers will be on the Utah roster in 2020: junior defensive tackle Hauati, freshman Fua and 2017 signee Taniela (who is also returning from a church mission this year).

Ben Renfro
Safety
6-1, 187, Fr.
HS
Magnolia, Texas
Magnolia HS

2019 District 8-5A Utility Player of the Year and two-time first-team all-district selection at Magnolia HS … three-star recruit by 247Sports, ESPN and Rivals … 49 receptions for 817 yards (16.7 ypc) and 13 touchdowns as a senior, adding seven kick returns for 132 yards (18.9 ypr) … 38 catches for 788 yards (20.7 ypc) and 11 touchdowns along with five kick returns for 87 yards (17.4 ypr) his junior season … 31 receptions for 592 yards (19.1 ypc) and six touchdowns his sophomore year, adding 10 kick returns for 131 yards (13.1 ypr) … also competed in track and field … son of Brett and Angela Renfro … has two sisters.

Nate Ritchie
Safety
6-2, 200, Fr.
HS
Cedar Hills, Utah
Lone Peak HS

Two-time first-team all-state at Lone Peak HS … first-team all-region as a junior … 2018 All-USA Utah football team … three-star recruit by 247Sports, Rivals and ESPN … rated the No. 4 recruit out of the state of Utah by 247Sports … played on offense, defense and special teams at Lone Peak HS … 51 total tackles (5.0 TFL, 1.0 sack) with eight interceptions (151 return yards, three touchdowns) and seven passes defended his senior year, also going 44-of-47 on PATs and 11-of-16 on field goals, including a career-long 51-yarder … also had 15 carries for 82 yards (5.5 ypc) with four rushing touchdowns along with three catches for 44 yards (1 TD) and 75 kick return yards as a senior … 39 tackles (1.0 TFL), six interceptions (148 return yards, two touchdowns), three passes defended and a forced fumble as a junior, adding four kick returns for 348 yards (87.0 ypr), scoring five return touchdowns (2 PR, 3 KR) and went 38-of-45 PATs, also going a perfect 8-for-8 on field goals … added four carries for 85 yards and one rushing touchdown as a junior … Lone Peak won the 6A state championship in 2018 … 29 tackles, four interceptions (48 return yards) and five passes defended his sophomore season, going 37-of-42 on PATs and 6-of-9 on field goals … also played basketball.

Caine Savage
Cornerback
5-11, 170, Fr.
HS
Buena Park, Calif.
Western HS

All-CIF Division 11 Defensive Player of the Year and first-team All-CIF defensive back and wide receiver as a junior at Western HS … 2018 Pac 4 League co-offensive player of the year … first-team all-Orange County as a junior … three-star recruit by 247Sports, Rivals and ESPN … 17 tackles, five interceptions (50 return yards) that included a pick six, two passes defended, one forced fumble and a blocked kick … 2,040 all-purpose yards as a senior included 96 catches for 1,464 receiving yards (15.3 ypc) and 14 receiving touchdowns, 41 carries for 338 rushing yards (8.2 ypc) and three kick returns for 188 yards (62.7 ypr) for two touchdown returns … 87 tackles, eight interceptions (90 return yards) with one pick six, 26 passes defended and a forced fumble as a junior … 2,664 all-purpose yards as a junior on offense with 124 receptions for 2,103 yards (17.0 ypc) and 32 receiving touchdowns, 12 kick returns for 307 yards (1 TD, 25.6 ypr) and seven punt returns for 146 yards (20.9 ypr) … set Orange County single-season county records for receptions (124), receiving yards (2,103) and touchdown receptions (32) his junior year … 30 tackles, two interceptions and nine passes defended as a sophomore, adding 65 receptions for 1,055 yards (16.2 ypc) and nine touchdowns … Western won the CIF Division 11 title in 2018 … also competed in track and field … twin brother Cassius.

Aliki Vimahi
Defensive Line
6-4, 247, Fr.
Kahuku HS
Kahuka, Hawaii

Originally signed with Utah in 2017 before leaving on an LDS church mission … 2016 Honolulu Star Advertiser Hawaii All-State Football Team and first-team USA Today All-USA Hawaii Football Team … two-time All-Hawaii Division I pick earned first-team honors as a senior in 2016 … 2016 first-team All-OIA Division I Blue Conference and 2015 OIA first-team all-star … 20.5 tackles, six sacks and a fumble recovery in 2016 … invited to play in the Polynesian Bowl in Hawaii after his senior season and led all tacklers in the first half with four stops (2 TFL, 1 sack) … son of Tevita and Lori Vimahi … brother Enokk is a freshman offensive lineman at Ohio State … full name is Alekisanita Vimahi, but goes by Aliki … pronounced AH-lee-key wee-MAH-hee.

Tyler Wegis
Defensive Line
6-7, 200, Fr.
HS
Ladera Ranch, Calif.
San Juan Hills HS

Second-team All-Sea View league as a junior at San Juan Hills HS … three-star recruit by 247Sports and Rivals … 92 total tackles (37.0 TFL, 10.5 sacks) as a senior, adding three passes defended, two fumble recoveries, three fumbles forced and a blocked PAT … 62 total tackles (19.0 TFL, 6.5 Sacks) with two fumbles recovered, one forced fumble and a safety his junior year … San Juan Hills won the 2019 CIF-SS Division 4 Championship … pronounced WEE-gus.

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