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What attracted two defensive recruits to commit to Utah football over the weekend

SHARE What attracted two defensive recruits to commit to Utah football over the weekend
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A Utah fan shows his “U” as the team runs onto the field as Utah and Arizona State prepare to play Saturday, Oct. 17, 2015, at Rice Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Two more defensive prospects — Velltray Jefferson and Darrien Stewart — pledged their commitment to join the Utah football 2021 recruiting class over the weekend.

First came Jefferson’s commitment to the Utes on Saturday. He announced the decision via Instagram Live, and had a top eight that included five other Pac-12 schools, including USC, Washington, Arizona State, Arizona and Colorado, as well as the SEC’s Tennessee and Fresno State of the Mountain West.

The 6-foot-4, 230-pound Jefferson, a one-time USC commit, is a three-star recruit in the 247 Sports composite rankings and is the first commit listed under the athlete designation in the Utes’ upcoming recruiting class, per 247 Sports.

Jefferson preps at Edison High in Fresno, California, the same school that produced current Utah wide receiver Tyrone Young-Smith. He told 247 Sports’ Brandon Huffman that Utah running backs coach Kiel McDonald was his initial recruiter, with linebackers coach Colton Swan joining the conversation later, along with head coach Kyle Whittingham. The plan is for Jefferson to join the Utes as a linebacker on the edge.

“I had a conversation with coach Mac when I was a freshman,” Jefferson told Huffman. “I was a receiver at the time. Coach Mac told me, ‘You don’t play receiver, you’re a million dollar linebacker’. To this day, he’s been sticking with me for three years, telling me I’m a linebacker, I’m a linebacker. So I started playing it and started balling out. He has been there ever since then. I built a relationship with the Utes and I just love them.”

The second addition to the Utes’ 2021 class came Sunday evening, when Stewart announced via Twitter his commitment to Whittingham’s program.

The 6-2, 190-pound Stewart plays safety at Desert Pines High School in Las Vegas and is rated a three-star recruit in 247 Sports’ composite rankings. He had narrowed his decision down to Utah, Boise State, UCLA and Oregon, UteZone’s Steve Bartle reported.

“For me, it really came down to the fact the the whole defensive coaching staff spent a lot of time getting to know me but especially (defensive coordinator and safeties coach) Morgan Scalley,” Stewart said. “I feel I have a great relationship with him, and all the coaches but especially him, I know that he’s a great coach and has helped a lot of players get to the NFL, and I want to be coached by him because I know he’ll help me reach my goals, that’s what led me to Utah.”

Utah had seven players selected in the 2020 NFL draft, including six defenders. Among them were three defensive backs — two others are currently on NFL practice squads — and cornerback Jaylon Johnson, a second-round pick, has started every game so far for the Chicago Bears, while safety Julian Blackmon, a third-rounder, started for the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday.

With the pair of additions, Utah now has 11 commits in its 2021 recruiting class, headlined by a pair of four-star recruits in quarterback Peter Costelli, of Mission Viejo, Calif., and inside linebacker Mason Tufaga, of Honolulu.