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Did Utes meet their needs in transfer portal?

Here’s a look at four positions the Utes bolstered through the transfer portal, and one that still needs work

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Southern California receiver Dorian Singer runs a route during game against San Jose State, Aug. 26, 2023, in Los Angeles.

Southern California receiver Dorian Singer runs a route during game against San Jose State on Saturday, Aug. 26, 2023, in Los Angeles. The Utes landed the former Trojan out of the transfer portal.

Kyusung Gong, Associated Press

A couple months before spring practice opens up at the University of Utah, let’s see how the Utes addressed their biggest areas of need during this transfer portal window.

Utah has added nine transfer portal players this offseason, and even though the window for transfers to enter their names into the portal has closed, players in the portal can still commit to a school at any time.

With transfer windows at Alabama, Washington and Arizona opened up due to coaching changes, Utah will be taking a look at those players, but as of mid-January, Utah has filled a lot of needs through the transfer portal.

Here’s a look at four positions the Utes bolstered through the portal and one position that Utah is still looking to add to.

Quarterback

This is the only area of need that the Utes haven’t met yet in the transfer portal, but there’s still time.

Cam Rising returns as the starter, and behind him are Brandon Rose and Isaac Wilson after Nate Johnson and Bryson Barnes transferred out. Rose has the arm talent and could make the offseason jump to be a reliable No. 2 option behind Rising, and Wilson could also compete for the backup job in the fall.

But after last season, we know there’s value in having an experienced transfer quarterback in case Rising has to miss any amount of time.

This week, in an interview with ESPN 700’s Bill Riley, Whittingham said that he wants to bring in a transfer quarterback or two.

“Well, we want to have four on scholarship come fall. And so right now we don’t have that. We’re one shy and so the short answer is yes, depending on what happens after spring, we could add another two more,” Whittingham said.

As of Jan. 17, Utah hasn’t gotten a commitment from a transfer portal quarterback, but there’s still plenty of time before fall camp starts. Simply put, there are a lot more quarterbacks in the transfer portal than starting jobs available. Some of the quarterbacks in the portal will have to take a backup position to keep playing college football. Right now, though, all of those quarterbacks are still trying to land a starting spot before spring ball starts.

Wide receiver

The Utes added two transfers at wide receiver in the past week — Washington freshman Taeshaun Lyons and USC junior Dorian Singer. Wide receiver was perhaps the No. 1 area the Utes needed to improve on in the transfer portal, and wide receivers coach Alvis Whitted made a push to land two players that could be difference-makers for the Utes in 2024.

Those additions were much needed after leading receiver Devaughn Vele left for the NFL draft and promising freshman Mikey Matthews transferred to Cal.

In 2022, while playing at Arizona, Singer had 66 receptions for 1,105 receiving yards and six touchdowns, ranking No. 14 in the nation in receiving yards. He regressed some at USC, with 24 catches for 289 yards and three touchdowns, but was competing in a loaded receiver room. At Utah, Singer has a real possibility of being WR1, especially if he can get back to his 2022 form.

Lyons has a ton of potential. He was a four-star recruit and redshirted his freshman year amid a stacked Washington receiver room. He’ll have the opportunity to get onto the field in his first season at Utah.

“It’s great to get those guys in the room and the room was pretty well depleted. I mean we needed to have a facelift in that room and we’re not done yet either with that position group. We’ll add at least one more beyond those two guys and depending on how spring goes, maybe a couple more, but we’re certainly excited about them,” Whittingham told Riley.

Safety

Utah has two potential starters in Nate Ritchie and Johnathan Hall to replace NFL draft-bound Sione Vaki and Cole Bishop, plus Tao Johnson will likely be moving to safety in 2024, but an immediate starter-level player is always good to add.

The Utes got that in Stanford senior Alaka’i Gilman, who started all nine games he played in 2023 and finished the year with 50 tackles, an interception and three pass breakups. Utah also added junior college transfer Maurice Evans, who had 76 tackles with two pass deflections, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery to bulk up Utah’s depth at the position.

Cornerback

This was another area of need after four cornerbacks transferred out, including starter JaTravis Broughton, and contributor Miles Battle, who used his final year of eligibility in his first year with the Utes, declared for the NFL draft.

Utah attacked this depth shortage in its high school recruiting class, picking up three cornerbacks, but also addressed it in the transfer portal.

Georgia Tech starter Kenan Johnson, who played in 11 games with eight starts, will be a candidate for an open starting spot with Zemaiah Vaughn returning at the other.

The Utes also got a commitment from four-star freshman cornerback Cameron Calhoun, who played 13 snaps for the national champion Michigan Wolverines, giving Utah some talented depth at the position.

Running back

Utah’s running back room had sizable numbers before the departure of Ja’Quinden Jackson, with Micah Bernard, Jaylon Glover and four-star freshmen Mike Mitchell, John Randle Jr. and Dijon Stanley, plus Charlie Vincent and others on the roster for 2024.

But even before Jackson officially entered the transfer portal, Utah was proactive, adding Idaho sophomore running back Anthony Woods, who started all 12 games for the Vandals and had 206 carries for 1,155 yards and 16 touchdowns. Woods could compete for the lion’s share of reps with Bernard and Glover, or could be utilized as a change-of-pace back.

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Idaho running back Anthony Woods carries the ball during game against Washington State, Saturday, Sept. 3, 2022, in Pullman, Wash. Woods transfer to Utah in the offseason and could contend for RB1 duties in 2024.

Young Kwak, Associated Press

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  • Jan. 18 | 7 p.m. | Men’s basketball | Oregon State | @ Salt Lake City
  • Jan. 19 | 7 p.m. | Women’s basketball | USC | @ Salt Lake City
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  • Jan. 24 | 8 p.m. | Men’s basketball | Washington State | @ Pullman, Washington

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