Every offseason, Utah builds part of its roster through the transfer portal.
Adding experienced players from the portal can provide a boost, with players able to contribute immediately.
The Utes have had plenty of transfer players make an immediate impact, and this season was no different.
Here’s a look at five of the most impactful transfer players in 2023 for Utah.
Miles Battle, cornerback
Ole Miss cornerback Miles Battle never thought he’d be a Ute. In high school, he didn’t visit Salt Lake City, despite getting an offer from Utah.
After transferring to Utah this year, Battle embraced the program, becoming one of its biggest ambassadors.
He played a vital role for the Utes, playing nearly as many snaps as JaTravis Broughton, who had a down year, and complementing Zemaiah Vaughn, who had a solid year.
Battle finished the season with 32 tackles, 0.5 tackles for loss, an interception and four pass breakups. He grew more comfortable in Utah’s system by the game and graded out as Utah’s second-best cornerback, per Pro Football Focus.
Battle was here for only one season but made an impact in that year — both on and off the field.
“He’s grown by leaps and bounds in his short time with us,” cornerbacks coach Sharrieff Shah said.
He’s out of NCAA eligibility and declared for the NFL draft this offseason.
“Where I came from, I had different coaches every year, so being taught different things, but here there’s a great way of doing things and everything (Shah’s) taught us, taught me, I feel like it’s going to translate to the next level,” Battle said.
Cole Becker, kicker
Utah’s kicking game was in need of a revamp after struggling during the 2022 season, and Cole Becker was the man for the job.
“Just knowing the situation here really motivated me to come to a place that not only needed me, but wanted me,” Becker said.
A transfer from Colorado after Deion Sanders brought his kicker to the school from Jackson State, Becker stabilized the position this season, making 15 of 18 field goals and all 28 extra points. His field goal percentage ranked No. 26 in college football.
In one of the highlights of the 2023 season for the Utes, Becker made the game-winning field goal to lift Utah over USC at the L.A. Memorial Coliseum, becoming the first Ute since Louie Sakoda to make a game-winner as time expired.
Kickoffs were another area where Utah needed to improve, and when Becker was healthy, he booted the ball to the end zone 48.6% of the time. Still room for improvement there, but a boost from a 30.2% touchback rate in 2022.
Becker will return for the 2024 season.
Logan Fano, defensive end
A transfer from BYU, Logan Fano chose to move north to Utah with his brother, offensive lineman Spencer Fano, who committed to Utah last year. After suffering a knee injury in BYU’s spring camp, Fano played his first collegiate action as a Ute.
He made an immediate impact for Utah, starting three games at defensive end and playing in five total before tearing his ACL at Oregon State.
He had 14 tackles with 3.5 sacks, two forced fumbles, a fumble recovery and a pass breakup and was living up to his four-star billing early on in the season.
The ACL tear cut what looked like a very promising season short, but Fano figures to be a key part of Utah’s defense in 2024.
Levani Damuni, linebacker
After a wealth of starting experience at Stanford, including being named captain, Levani Damuni returned to his home state of Utah this season.
“I’ve loved it. It’s been great seeing the family on the weekends, going home, too, when we have the early kicks, and so it’s been great. I’ve loved it. It’s the whole reason I wanted to come closer to home,” Damuni said.
Even with all of his Division I experience, Damuni wasn’t guaranteed the starting job when he transferred, and he indeed didn’t get the starting role, which instead went to Lander Barton and Karene Reid.
It took some time for Damuni to get completely comfortable in Morgan Scalley’s scheme throughout fall camp, but once it clicked, he thrived.
He saw the field in all 13 games and took on the starting role after Barton’s season-ending injury against USC.
Damuni led Utah’s defense with 87 tackles and 2.5 tackles for loss and will be back, along with Barton and Reid, on Utah’s most solid defensive position group in 2024.
Landen King, tight end
King transferred from Auburn and immediately became a fan favorite due to his personality.
“When Coach (Andy Ludwig) called my phone, I mean, he’s one of the great offensive coordinators in college. So when that happened, it was a no-brainer. I already knew I was coming here on my visit,” King said.
He also had some great moments on the field in 2023.
With Brant Kuithe out for the season and Thomas Yassmin suffering a season-ending injury five games into the season, King took on the role of the main pass-catching tight end.
King appeared in all 13 games for the Utes, starting four of them, and had 14 catches for 166 yards and three touchdowns.
The big focus for him this offseason will be gaining about 15 pounds to get up to true tight end weight.
“The kid loves football. He just loves football. I think it shows through with his energy, the way his teammates respond to him, and it shows up not just in games, but every day in practice. And he’s a very good pass-receiving tight end, and if he puts on some bulk, he will be a complete tight end,” tight ends coach Freddie Whittingham said.
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From the archives
- Why this Fox Sports analyst has Utah as the favorite to win the Big 12 (Deseret News)
- Utah made a statement — and exorcised an unwanted streak — by beating Oregon in a thriller (Deseret News)
- Dalton Kincaid had another solid postseason effort, though it came in a loss (Deseret News)
- Jan. 26 | 6 p.m. | Gymnastics | Arizona State | @ Salt Lake City
- Jan. 26 | 8 p.m. | Women’s basketball | Oregon | @ Eugene, Oregon
- Jan. 27 | 8 p.m. | Men’s basketball | Washington | @ Seattle, Washington
- Jan. 28 | 1 p.m. | Women’s basketball | Oregon State | @ Corvallis, Oregon
All times MST