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National signing day is almost here. Get up to speed on the Utah Utes’ 2021 class

Pleasant Grove’s Isaac Vaha tackles Lehi’s Chandler Jenkins during a football game at Lehi High School in Lehi on Friday, Sept. 11, 2020.
Pleasant Grove’s Isaac Vaha tackles Lehi’s Chandler Jenkins during a football game at Lehi High School in Lehi on Friday, Sept. 11, 2020.
Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

In the modern world of college football recruiting, there is no such thing as an offseason. Recruiting is the lifeblood of every program, and there is a near-constant need to look to and prepare for the future.

With that in mind and with the national signing day less than a day away, here is a look at Utah’s 2021 recruiting class, with prospects listed according to reporting by 247 Sports and the Deseret News.

(All commitments at this point are verbal and nonbinding.)


Commits

Michael Mokofisi

DT — Woods Cross (Woods Cross)

6-3, 300

★★★

Mokofisi, a star defensive lineman for the Wildcats, chose the Utes over USC, Nebraska, BYU and Arizona. This season he racked up a 33 tackles and 2.5 sacks, the later the second-most among the Wildcats. Mokofisi is a legacy recruit, as his father Filipo Sr. and brother Filipo Jr., as well as numerous uncles, have played for the Utes.

Woods Cross head coach Tyler Gladwell’s comments on Mokofisi:

“Michael is a special football player that we counted on to be our best lineman on both sides of the ball. He had several moments when he was dominant during games, both on offense and defense. He was the type of player for us that when he raised his level of play it would raise all of his teammates as well.”


Transfers

Charlie Brewer

QB — Baylor

6-1, 188

★★★

A graduate transfer, Brewer led Baylor to an 11-1 regular season, a berth in the Big 12 championship game and a Sugar Bowl appearance in 2019, when he threw for for 3,161 yards, 21 touchdowns and seven interceptions, while completing 64.5% of his pass attempts.

This past season was more of a struggle as the Bears finished 2-7, but Brewer still managed to throw for 1,958 yards, 14 touchdowns and eight interceptions, while completing 61.7% attempts.

In his collegiate career, Brewer has thrown for nearly 10,000 yards (9,700), 65 touchdowns and 28 interceptions, and also rushed for over 1,000 yards (1,039) and 22 touchdowns.


Chris Curry

RB — LSU

5-11, 200

★★★★

Once viewed as the heir apparent to Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Curry played sparingly for LSU over the course of three seasons, including a redshirt year in 2018.

As a Tiger, Curry carried the ball 91 times for 336 yards, and also recorded four receptions for 33 yards. His best season was in 2019, when he rushed for 189 yards, averaging 5 yards per carry, much of that coming in a CFP national semifinal when he started in place of an injured Edwards-Helaire and rushed for 89 yards on 16 carries.

A 4-star recruit out of high school according to 247 Sports, Curry was considered the 15th-best running back prospect in the country in 2018.


Ja’Quinden Jackson

QB — Texas

6-2, 232

★★★★

Jackson never played a down for Texas, spending only this past season in Austin, but was one of the prized recruits of the Longhorns’ 2020 class. 247 Sports rated Jackson the third-best dual-threat quarterback coming out of high school a year ago, while ESPN rated Jackson the No. 2 dual threat quarterback in the country and the No. 2 overall recruit from Texas, as well as the 28th-best prospect nationwide, regardless of position.

In high school, Jackson was an All-American and All-State honoree who led Duncanville to two straight state title games. As a senior, he completed 100 of 163 passes (61.4%) for 1,711 yards, 21 touchdowns and five interceptions, while rushing 93 times for 1,030 yards (11.1 yards per carry) and 16 touchdowns.


T.J. Pledger

RB — Oklahoma

5-8, 190

★★★★

Coming out of high school in 2018, Pledger was one of the most highly touted running backs in the country. He was rated the No. 5 running back in the country by Rivals, No. 6 by ESPN, and the No. 6 all-purpose back by 247 Sports. He was also the 17th-ranked player in the state of Florida by Rivals, 25th by 247Sports and 26th by ESPN.

In three seasons with the Sooners, Pledger rushed for 695 yards and six touchdowns, averaging 5.1 yards per carry. His best season was this most recent one, when he rushed for 451 yards and five touchdowns.

All told, Pledger played in 30 games for Oklahoma, starting five.


Signees

Cole Bishop

S — Starrs Mill (Fayetteville, Georgia)

6-3, 200

★★★

A one-time commit to Duke — he committed to the Blue Devils in March 2020, before de-committing on Oct. 15 — Bishop chose the Utes over Stanford, Vanderbilt, Virginia, Georgia Tech and others. Playing primarily at safety and outside linebacker for Starrs Mill High, Bishop appeared in nine games in the 2020-21 season. Bishop is versatile as well, proving an offensive threat at times. Per Max Preps, Bishop has carried the ball 18 times for 227 yards and two touchdowns in his high school career, while also recording 240 receiving yards and four touchdowns.


Ethan Calvert

LB — Oaks Christian (Westlake Village, California)

6-3, 230

★★★★

Ranked the 80th overall prospect in the country, according to 247Sports Composite rating, as well as third-best inside linebacker, not to mention ninth-best overall prospect in California, Calvert is one of, if not the best recruit in Utah’s 2021 class. Calvert is described by national recruiting analyst Greg Biggins as a “tough, physical linebacker who has made a smooth transition from safety. Carries 230 pounds easily and shows the versatility to play any of the (line)backer positions, but projects best inside.” Calvert played safety, linebacker and wide receiver for the Lions.


Makai Cope

WR — Culver City (Culver City, California)

6-2, 190

★★★

A target of almost every team in the Pac-12, as well as Michigan, Boise State and Fresno State, Cope is rated as the 80th-best wide receiver in the country by 247Sports. As a junior in 2019, Cope had 46 receptions for 802 yards and nine touchdowns. In his career for the Centaurs, Cope accounted for 1,582 receiving yards and 18 touchdowns. In addition to his time at wide receiver, Cope also saw time as a defensive back.


Peter Costelli

QB — Mission Viejo (Mission Viejo, California)

6-3, 205

★★★★

One of the top-ranked dual threat quarterbacks in California, Costelli was originally slated to join the Utes in January coming off a junior season — he will now play his senior year for Mission Viejo — where he threw for nearly 2,000 yards (1,992) and 23 touchdowns and rushed for 354 yards and four scores. A track and field star as well, Costelli has legitimate Power Five starting potential.


Jonah Elliss

LB — Moscow Senior (Moscow, Idaho)

6-2, 210

★★★

The son of former Utah great Luther Elliss, Jonah Elliss is the No. 91-rated outside linebacker in the country and No. 1 overall player in the state of Idaho. A versatile athlete who played both linebacker and tight end for the Bears, Jonah chose the Utes over in-state power Boise State as well as his own dad, who currently coaches at Idaho.

Moscow head coach Phil Helbling’s comments on Jonah Elliss (via The Lewiston Tribune):

“Early on in our conversation, he didn’t want to go to Utah. I think for a lot of reasons and I think the biggest one early on was following in the legacy of your father, and I think that maybe weighed a little bit on him. But after the recruiting process and the coaches and the fit … he just thought it felt right, and started to embrace wanting to follow in pop’s footsteps. ... He gives us the ability to create a bunch of matchup nightmares. You could put him anywhere.”


Kolinu’u Faaiu

OL — North Creek (Bothell, Washington)

6-4, 315

★★★

A Polynesian Bowl alumnus and ready-made offensive line prospect, Faaiu committed to Utah in June, becoming at that time the only lineman in the Utes’ 2021 class. He chose Utah over Boise State, Colorado, Michigan State and others.


Tevita Fotu

DT — Snow College (Ephraim)

6-4, 299

★★★

A one-time BYU commit and former Herriman Mustang, Fotu is considered one of, if not the best, defensive linemen in the JUCO ranks. In 2019, his freshman year at Snow College, Fotu recorded 17 tackles, 1.5 sacks and a fumble recovery in six games.


Elisha Lloyd

CB — Mission Hills (San Marcos, California)

5-10, 175

★★★

Described by the San Diego Union-Tribune as “an impressive athlete with a physique chiseled out of granite,” Lloyd is a one-time Washington State commit — he de-committed on Oct. 27. A multi-sport athlete — he also is a track and field star who, per the Seattle Times, ran a 10.8 in the 100 meters and a 22.54 in the 200 meters in the spring of 2018 — Lloyd was named one of the 10 fastest recruits in California by 247Sports. He was expected to move from cornerback to nickel back at WSU.


Ricky Parks

RB — Gaither (Tampa, Florida)

5-10, 192

★★★★

A two-sport athlete, Parks chose the Utes over the likes of Florida State, Penn State, Iowa and South Carolina, among others. This season, Parks carried the ball 96 times for 688 yards, per Max Preps, for an average of 7.2 yards per carry and 68.8 yards per game. He also rushed for 11 touchdowns for the Cowboys.


Viliami Pouha

DE — Bingham (South Jordan)

6-2, 230

★★★

The latest in a long line of FBS caliber defensive lineman to come out of Bingham, Pouha has been arguably the Miners’ best defender this season. As a senior, Pouha racked up 54 tackles — the third-most on the team — and 11 sacks. He recorded double-digit tackles (10) in a win over East and had at least one sack in seven games.

Bingham head coach Dave Peck’s comments on Pouha:

“Vili has had a great season for us. He leads our team in sacks and hurries. He is also in a tight race with Sam Sinoti for (Bingham) defensive player of the year.”


Trey Reynolds

LB — Queen Creek (Queen Creek, Arizona)

6-2, 235

★★★

Reynolds as been a do-everything player for Queen Creek in his high school career. He’s played quarterback and thrown for over 700 yards and seven touchdowns. As a running back, Reynolds has carried the ball 81 times for 490 yards and 16 scores. Defense, linebacker specifically, is where Reynolds has had the most success, however. As a junior in 2019, he racked up 159 tackles, an average of 12 per game. In his career with the Bulldogs, Reynolds has recorded 243 tackles, three sacks, four forced fumbles and two interceptions.

Queen Creek head coach Joe Germaine’s comments on Reynolds (via SBLive):

“Trey is the best athlete on our team. He brings an unbelievable blend of speed and strength to the linebacker position.”


Darrien Stewart

S — Desert Pines (Las Vegas)

6-2, 190

★★★

Stewart has recorded 59 tackles and an interception in 15 games played at Desert Pines, per Max Preps. As a junior in 2019, Stewart appeared in eight games for the Jaguars and racked up 30 tackles, his interception and a tackle for loss.


Mason Tufaga

LB — St. Louis (Honolulu, Hawaii)

6-1, 210

★★★★

Of the three linebackers currently committed to the Utes, Tufaga has arguably the highest ceiling, with the NFL a real possibility. He played an integral role for the now four-time defending state champion St. Louis Crusaders as a junior in 2019 and will graduate early and miss out on the Crusaders’ spring 2021 season.

St. Louis head coach Ron Lee’s comments on Tufaga (via Hawaii Prep World):

“Terrific, he committed to Utah. His father (Crusaders assistant coach Wes) graduated from Utah. ... I hate losing Mason (to early graduation). I wish he played (in the spring) for us. He was going to be our leader. Losing him is a tremendous loss.”


Isaac Vaha

TE — Pleasant Grove (Pleasant Grove)

6-7, 230

★★★

A newcomer to football — he started playing only a year ago — Vaha has been a key cog for a successful Vikings team. In 10 regular season games his senior year, Vaha recorded 12 catches for 206 yards and two touchdowns, while also carrying the ball four times for 55 yards (his yards per carry is the best mark on the team). Vaha also suited up on defense at times, and his three sacks last year are the second most by any Pleasant Grove player.


Zereoue Williams

OL — Mountain Pointe (Phoenix, Arizona)

6-8, 248

★★★

A two-way lineman for Mountain Pointe High, Williams spurned hometown ASU, as well as Florida State, Missouri, Tennessee and Iowa State when he chose the Utes. Williams is a top-15 rated offensive lineman in Arizona and a top-100 prospect nationally at his position. The 2020-21 season is his first playing high school football.

Mountain Pointe head coach Eric Lauer’s comments on Williams (via Sports360AZ):

“I knew the kind of feet that he had when watching him run on the court. At 6-foot-8, he has elite feet as a football player his size. I’ve coached guys in high school that have played (offensive line) in the NFL, and he has the best feet I’ve seen. There’s a lot of things that have to happen to play on Sundays, but he has Sunday feet for a lineman.”