The chaos in college football that is the NCAA transfer portal has subsided — at least until May 1, when players can enter the portal again. 

Now that the dust has settled from this latest round of portaling, let’s look at how the transfer portal has impacted Utah’s program. 

The Utes didn’t have as much activity in the transfer portal compared to a lot of other programs, but there have been some interesting developments.

Utah lost nine players from the transfer portal, while gaining five.

Those numbers don’t include running back Micah Bernard, who spent less than one month in the transfer portal. It appears Bernard will be returning to the Utes, according to reports. 

Of those who are leaving Utah, the biggest loss is center Paul Maile, who transferred to BYU. Besides Maile, the Utes didn’t lose much in terms of on-field production and experience. 

The Utes did say goodbye to a few players, however, that seem to have potential — four-star recruits Ricky Parks, a running back; and linebackers Mason Tufaga and Ethan Calvert

As far as the additions, linebacker Levani Damuni (Stanford), edge rusher Logan Fano (BYU), cornerback Miles Battle (Ole Miss), placekicker Cole Becker (Colorado) and wide receiver Emery Simmons (Indiana) all joined the program. Each of them could make a big impact for Utah in 2023.   

Overall, the transfer portal was a net positive for the Utes as the the back-to-back Pac-12 champs have made themselves a little better, particularly on defense and special teams.

In a recent interview with The Athletic, coach Kyle Whittingham was asked what kind of players he and his staff are looking for from the transfer portal.

“With guys in the portal, we really take the exact same approach as we do with high school guys. We want guys with work ethic and a team-first mentality. Of course, you have to have the physical tools, as well, but we need someone who fits our culture,” he said. “That’s important that we maintain that, but it’s getting more difficult to do with all the transitions.

“There’s more turnover on your team each year, and I think that’s going to be an increasingly bigger challenge going forward, is keeping your culture intact with all the new players and faces that are going to come into the program each year.”

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Utah opens spring practices March 21. The spring game is scheduled for April 22. 

Here’s a look at what Utah gained, and lost, from the transfer portal. 

Replacing Maile

With the departure of Maile, Utah is losing a center that played in 28 games, including 15 starts under his belt. 

However, the Utes do have a couple of centers in the program with experience — Johnny Maea and Kolinu’u Faaiu. 

Utah Utes offensive lineman Paul Maile (54) and Utah Utes quarterback Cameron Rising (7) celebrate a touchdown.
Utah offensive lineman Paul Maile, left, and quarterback Cam Rising celebrate a Rising touchdown as Utah and USC play at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Oct. 15, 2022. Maile will be lining up for BYU next fall. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

When Maile was sidelined with an injury against Stanford, Maea also sustained an injury. Their replacement was Faaiu, who performed well. 

“At center, (Faaiu) came in and didn’t miss a beat. He graded out exceptionally well,” Whittingham said at the time. “He answered the bell and was ready to play. … For his first experience as a Power Five football player and first game experience of any extent, very proud of Koli and what he did.”

Micah Bernard’s return

The Utes must feel much better about their depth at running back with Bernard’s return. He’s Utah’s leading returning rusher with 106 carries for 533 yards and four touchdowns. The versatile Bernard also caught 34 passes for 314 yards and a TD. 

Ja’Quinden Jackson (78 carries, 531 yards, nine touchdowns) and Jaylon Glover (78 carries, 360 yards, four touchdowns), along with Bernard, give the Utes depth and experience at this position, even with Tavion Thomas moving on

Levani Damuni

With linebacker Mohamoud Diabate having declared for the NFL draft, Utah needed more experience at that position. 

Damuni, who played for four seasons at Stanford, fits that need. Damuni, who prepped at Ridgeline High, returns to his home state after starting for the Cardinal since his sophomore season.

Last year, Damuni was a team captain and recorded 76 tackles, two forced fumbles, two pass deflections, a sack and an interception. He is a grad transfer, meaning he has one year of eligibility remaining.

In 2022, Gabe Reid transferred from Stanford to Utah as a grad transfer and Reid became a key contributor to the Utes defense. 

Logan Fano

While Utah lost starting center Maile to BYU, the Utes gained an edge rusher from the Cougars — Fano.

The four-star recruit from Timpview High decided to follow his younger brother, Spencer Fano, to Utah a day after Spencer announced his commitment to the Utes.

Logan wrote in a Twitter post at the time: “Grateful this wasn’t the last time I got to play with my brother. Let’s get to work! Go Utes!”

Fano never played a game at BYU because he suffered an ACL injury last spring. But he was a key signee in the Cougars’ 2021 recruiting class after he chose BYU over offers from Michigan, Wisconsin, Arizona, Arizona State, Utah State, Oregon State, Washington State, Nebraska, Colorado and Virginia, according to 247 Sports.

Miles Battle

Utah’s All-America cornerback Clark Phillips III has declared for the NFL draft, but cornerbacks coach Sharrieff Shah dipped into the transfer portal and brought aboard an experienced cornerback from the Southeastern Conference.

Battle, a 6-foot-4, 205-pounder from Houston recorded 37 tackles, four pass breakups, an interception and a forced fumble last season at Ole Miss. 

Shah is optimistic about what Battle can provide the Utes’ defensive secondary.

“How can you expect a kid to be good? You can’t. I can say, ‘That kid has a foundation that can be molded into something beautiful.’ His intelligence and the reps that he’s gotten at Ole Miss, he’s been very productive,” he said. “In his bowl game, he had a similar play to Clark. What a beautiful omen. There are so many things that he brings to the table. He’s another quality piece to help us do what we want to do again.”

Emery Simmons

Simmons will shore up the depth and experience in Utah’s wide receivers room. He caught 37 passes for 408 yards and one touchdown last season at Indiana. Prior to that, Simmons had 30 catches for 516 yards and three TDs at North Carolina.

Cole Becker

One area of inconsistency last season for Utah was its kicking game. 

Splitting placekicking duties, Jordan Noyes and Jadon Redding combined to hit 10 of 14 field goals, with a long of 45. They combined to make 72 of 73 extra points.

When it comes to kickoffs — a source of frustration last season for Whittingham — four kickers combined to record touchbacks on only 29% of the Utes’ 99 kickoffs. Four times, Utah was penalized for kickoffs out of bounds. 

Colorado place kicker Cole Becker warms up before a game Saturday, Nov. 5, 2022, in Boulder, Colo. Becker’s big leg and accuracy landed him a spot on the Utes roster via the transfer portal. | David Zalubowski, Associated Press

Redding is no longer part of the program, while Noyes has entered the transfer portal. 

The Utes found their new placekicker from Pac-12 rival Colorado — Becker, who committed to Utah only three days after entering the portal.

Becker, who was the Buffaloes’ kicker the past two years, has two years of eligibility remaining. 

In Boulder in 2022, Becker connected on 11 of 13 field goals, including a long of 49 yards. He drilled 20 of 21 extra points. For his career, Becker hit 25 of 33 field goals, with a long of 56. He’s made 45 of 46 extra points. 

Meanwhile, Becker recorded touchbacks on 67% of his 94 kickoffs at Colorado. That percentage improved to 73.9% during the 2022 campaign. He had only two kickoffs go out of bounds. 


Utah’s losses to the transfer portal (9)

Cornerback Malone Mataele — Utah State.

Linebacker Ethan Calvert — Cal Poly.

Defensive end Tyler Wegis — Boise State.

Linebacker Mason Tufaga — Oregon State.

Tight end Landon Morris — Undecided.

Running back Ricky Parks — Undecided.

Center Paul Maile — BYU.

Linebacker Andrew Mata’afa — Undecided.

Placekicker Jordan Noyes — Undecided.


Utah’s additions from the transfer portal (5) 

Linebacker Levani Damuni — Stanford.

Edge rusher Logan Fano — BYU.

Cornerback Miles Battle — Ole Miss.

Placekicker Cole Becker — Colorado.

Receiver Emery Simmons — Indiana.