PROVO — Expectations have been raised, and it appears as if the 2016 class of Utah's in-state football recruits is set to meet them.
In recent years, national and regional recruiting experts have noted the rise of Utah's in-state football product, a product which seemed to peak in 2015 thanks to 5-star prospects Osa Masina (Brighton) and Porter Gustin (Salem Hills.) Both Masina and Gustin ended up signing with USC after considering scholarship offers from just about every top collegiate program in the country.
USC, and other top programs, have already started recruiting the state in earnest for their 2016 classes, expecting to come away with some good gains.
"Coaches found great talent in Utah last year, more talent than ever before, and they're coming back for more," said Brandon Huffman, who is the National Director of Recruiting for scout.com. "Utah is a known commodity now. Coaches understand that the state has great talent and they now aren't surprised by all the talent found in the state. They now expect to find great talent."
While the 2016 in-state product probably won't produce two prospects the caliber of Masina and Gustin, Huffman and others believe this year's recruiting class will provide greater depth and variety.
"Utah has always been known to have great defensive line prospects, but I think you're seeing other positions get stronger year by year," Huffman said. "You have at least two very good quarterback prospects in the state, running backs and even a top receiver in Simi Fehoko (Brighton.)"
As for the quarterbacks, two of the top prospects have already verbally pledged to in-state programs. BYU was able to garner a commitment from Maple Mountain's Jaren Hall while Utah received one from Brighton's Kahi Neves.
The biggest in-state quarterback prospect is considered to be Bingham's Keaton Torre, who had previously committed to Louisville, but is now considering other options which include both the Cougars and the Utes.
As for Fehoko, he recently listed both BYU and Utah as two of his top five options, along with Stanford, Michigan and Washington.
"We list Simi as a 4-star prospect and he's been part of our top 300 prospects for a while now," Huffman said of the 6-foot-4 receiver. "You look at him and you'd think he's just a good, solid possession receiver, but he's deceptively fast and really can do everything well as a receiver."
Leading this year's crop of defensive linemen looks to be Murray's Maxs Tupai, who is considering offers from BYU and from Utah among many others from top programs.
"Tupai is someone we've liked for a while," Huffman said. "He's versatile and sort of that new type of defensive lineman in that way, so that makes him very attractive to a lot of programs."
Other top prospects around the state for 2016 include Brighton's Drew Jensen, who could play at either receiver or defensive back, Spanish Fork linebacker Solofa Funa, who is committed to BYU, Woods Cross linebacker Pookie Maka, Corner Canyon offensive lineman Keaton Bills and East tight end Tangaloa Kaufusi, among many others.
"I'm sure there's some more who will show up around the state once camps get underway," Huffman said. "Like I said, this looks to be a very deep class for the state of Utah, probably even deeper than last year's. Things are on an upward trend and I see that continuing. 2017 already looks very good for the state."
June is normally a very active recruiting time for top prospects, with most of them attending team and regional camps throughout the month. Historically, many commitments are made in June due to the intense recruiting that takes place along with most programs looking to secure pledges prior to the start of the football season. The Deseret News will keep track of in-state developments throughout the summer, leading up to National Letter of Intent day in February.