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The Utah football program has made its transfer portal strategy quite clear

Former Washington defensive back Brandon McKinney will transfer to the University of Utah in Salt Lake City.
Washington defensive back Brandon McKinney (23) in the first half during a college football game against Arizona, Saturday, Oct. 12, 2019, in Tucson, Ariz.
Rick Scuteri, Associated Press

As the transfer portal becomes a more and more important tool for college programs to help build their rosters, coaches are having to decide how they will use it alongside other more traditional means of recruiting, such as going to the high school ranks to find prospects.

The Utah Utes football program is making it clear this offseason, and especially this week, how it intends to use the portal to address needs: Going after former high-level recruits from other Power Five schools who either have been buried on depth charts or are just looking for a change of scenery.

The evidence: As of Friday, Utah has received commitments from seven Division I transfers during the offseason, and all seven were previously at another Power Five school (one, running back Tavion Thomas, will come from junior college). Just this week alone, three have pledged to play for the Utes.

The strategy differs from a program like Utah State. Yes, the Aggies have gotten some Power Five transfers who didn’t produce at that level, but they’ve also gotten some who were productive in the Group of Five ranks (a bunch have come from Arkansas State, where new Utah State coach Blake Anderson was before taking over in Logan last winter).

Utah, though, has gone entirely the P5 route when it comes to Division I transfers.

Here’s a brief look at each of the seven transfer commits the Utes have gotten since last December listed in alphabetical order, with their previous school in parentheses.

Charlie Brewer, QB (Baylor):

A very productive starter for four years with the Bears, Brewer transferred last December for a change of scenery after a disappointing 2020 season for his team. In his career, Brewer has thrown for exactly 9,700 yards with 65 touchdowns against 28 interceptions. Although star ranking in high school becomes less relevant as players get into college, Brewer was the lowest-ranked of the seven transfers as a 3-star prospect, according to 247 Sports. The other six were all 4-star prospects.

Josh Calvert, LB (Washington):

The most recent commit in a wave of them over the past few days, Calvert will arrive in Utah looking for a fresh start after tearing his ACL as a freshman at Washington in 2019 and then not playing at all in 2020. Coming out of high school as part of the class of 2019, he was ranked by 247 Sports as the 15th-best inside linebacker prospect in the country. With the Utes, he’ll join his younger brother Ethan, another 4-star linebacker who signed earlier this year.

Chris Curry, RB (LSU):

A January commit, Curry left LSU after tallying just 91 carries for 336 yards with no touchdowns over three seasons with the Tigers. Like Calvert, however, Curry was ranked by 247 Sports as the 15th-best prospect in the country at his position coming out of high school (class of 2018) and will be looking to get his career going at a place that has had to rebuild its running back room this offseason.

Theo Howard, WR (Oklahoma):

One of two players to be made publicly known as transferring to Utah on Thursday, Howard has already officially signed with the program. This is the second time the California native has transferred in his career, as he began it at UCLA before leaving for Oklahoma. He was solid in four seasons at UCLA, tallying 119 receptions for 1,459 yards and nine touchdowns before not doing much last season at Oklahoma. He has one year of eligibility remaining.

Ja’Quinden Jackson, QB (Texas):

Just hours before Brewer announced his pledge to Utah last Dec. 20, Jackson also did, leaving Texas. Part of the reason Jackson chose the Utes was to be with friend Ty Jordan, who died just six days later in an accidental shooting. Jackson stuck with Utah however, and will be looking to realize the promise he had coming out of high school as the third-best dual-threat quarterback prospect in the class of 2020, according to 247 Sports.

Brandon McKinney, S (Washington):

The first of the three players to commit this week, McKinney played mostly on special teams in four seasons at Washington before deciding to leave in April. Although he hasn’t produced a whole lot at the collegiate level, he was ranked the 22nd-best safety prospect in the country by 247 Sports coming out of high school in 2017. Will he be able to more fully realize that potential in a new environment?

T.J. Pledger, RB (Oklahoma):

As Utah was mourning Jordan’s Dec. 26 death, Pledger’s commitment on Jan. 11 was both a sign that the program was ready to continue on and also that it was going to look at high-level talent to help rebuild its running back room (Jordan Wilmore and Devin Brumfield had announced they were transferring). He had a solid 2020 season for Oklahoma, rushing for 451 yards on 95 carries with five touchdowns but had played sparingly in two seasons before that. Pledger was ranked by 247 Sports as the fourth-best all-purpose back in the country in the class of 2018.