SALT LAKE CITY — ’Tis the season.

College football’s early signing period begins Wednesday, and the Utah Utes will be heavily involved. If all goes as planned, coach Kyle Whittingham expects to sign a vast majority of the program’s 2020 recruiting class. He said they may have only 1-2 spots left for the traditional signing period in February.

“But we’ll see how things go,” Whittingham added.

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Transfers and returning missionaries work into the equation as well. The Utes have already secured commitments from a pair of former four-star prep quarterbacks in South Carolina’s Jake Bentley and Baylor’s Peyton Powell. The cast of missionaries back in the fold, which will also be counted in this class of 25 initial signings, include offensive tackle Jaren Kump (Herriman HS), defensive tackle Hunter Lotulelei (Highland HS), linebacker Tennessee Pututau (East HS) and defensive end Aliki Vimahi (Kahuku HS, Hawaii).

As for the remaining spots in the upcoming recruiting class, there’s a definite emphasis.

“Defense is the priority this year,” Whittingham said. “We have quite a few more seniors on defense than we do on offense and so that necessitates that we sign more defensive players this year.”

Recruiting guru Dan Sorensen, publisher of UteZone.com, said specifically that the defensive line and secondary are priorities. The staff, he added, is getting the program to the point of talking about “reloading and not rebuilding” at positions.

Demographics also come into play. This year’s signing class is expected to feature a lot of players from Texas and Utah. Both have been strong recruiting grounds this time around.

“Every year tends to be a little different in terms of where the kids are coming. Sometimes we’ll see Utah much more active in Florida. Sometimes they’ll be much more active on the Hawaiian islands,” Sorensen said. “Texas has been especially fertile recruiting ground for Utah this year. Texas has always been an important pipeline, but definitely this year they seem to have a lot more traction with these Texas athletes.”

That’s a good thing, Sorensen explained, because there’s reputation that Texas players tend to be a little more ready to make the leap to college football.

“There’s going to be some opportunities for a lot of these guys to come in and potentially play early as true freshmen — especially with the new redshirt rules in place,” he said. “Texas has been especially important this year.”

UteZone.com is reporting that the program has hard commitments from several recruits with Texas ties — Powell, linebacker Graham Faloona (Southlake Carroll HS), linebacker Jaylan Ford (Lone Star HS), running back John Gentry (North Shore HS), running back Ty Jordan (West Mesquite HS), wide receiver Money Parks (Aledo HS) and safety Ben Renfro (Magnolia HS).

As for Utah, Sorensen noted that the Utes are in position to secure commitments from five of the top six players in the state. 

“That’s a big deal because historically over the past few years the highest-rated recruits have tended to go out-of-state,” Sorensen said. “So the fact that Utah and the way that they’ve been able to demonstrate their abilities on a national stage and elevate the profile of the brand, they’re starting to get some of the these high-level prospects that are playing in the state of Utah to stay home.”

Sorensen fully expects it to happen and stated it would be a “major accomplishment.”

Viewmont High School offensive lineman Alex Harrison announced his intentions Thursday afternoon. He could be joined soon by defensive end Xavier Carlton (Juan Diego), defensive end Van Fillinger (Corner Canyon), linebacker Sione Fotu (Bingham) and safety Nate Ritchie (Lone Peak).

Utah’s in-state haul is enhanced with the returned missionary additions, giving the class a heavy local emphasis. 

The Utes are also reportedly recruiting offensive lineman Solatoa Moea’i (Punahou HS, Hawaii), defensive end Keanu Tanuvasa (Mission Viejo HS, California) and defensive end Tanoa Togiai (Rigby HS, Idaho). Others being pursued include athlete Ramon Henderson (Liberty HS, California) and defensive end Jonathan Horton (Scotlandville Magnet HS, Louisiana).

When all is said and done, Sorensen is expecting Utah to shoot up in the national recruiting rankings. If the Utes are able to close out on their high-level recruits — many of whom aren’t expected to announce decisions until Wednesday or perhaps just before — he thinks they’ll have an outside shot at a top 25 class.

“Everything has to go perfectly for them to get a top 25 national class. But certainly in the top 30 is realistic — depending on, of course, what happens around the country,” Sorensen said. “That would probably put them in the upper third of the Pac-12 as well. But there’s less than a week to go for signing day and there’s a lot that needs to happen between now and then.”