Utah Football Signing Day: Will the One-Year Waiver and Transfer Portal Make an Impact?

The early signing period for college football begins Wednesday and for Utah and other programs across the country this one will be different.

In October, the NCAA formally approved a one-year exemption from football scholarships for Division I programs, allowing schools to sign up to seven additional players beyond the normal limit of 25 scholarships so that coaches replace up to seven departing players. for the transfer portal.

This upcoming class, made up of high school and middle school rookies as well as Division I transfers, can grow to 32.

As of Monday morning, Utes had 11 commitments heading into the first signing period, including four-star rookies in linebacker Lander Barton from Brighton High and quarterback Nate Johnson from Clovis, Calif.

Other expected signatories include running back Jaylon Glover (Lakeland, Fla); athlete Carson Tabaracci (Park City High); offensive tackle Tyler Knaak (Brighton High); cornerback Jocelyn Malaska (Bethany, Oklahoma); quarterback Brandon Rose (Murrieta, Calif.); wide receiver Ryan Peppins (Alabaster, Alabama); wide receiver Chris Reed (Apopka, Fla); security Elijah Davis (Auburndale, Florida); offensive lineman Tavo Motuapuaka (Mililani, Hawaii); and athlete Tao Johnson (Idaho Falls, Idaho).

The transfer portal has changed recruiting. And with coaches fired earlier in the season, it has created even more chaos.

“You combine that with the portal, which by the way is going to go crazy this year. It will be the most active ever this offseason. You can see it really heating up already, ”said coach Kyle Whittingham. “Between (the coach changes) and the ability to move without penalty, it keeps changing and evolving. And it will continue to change and evolve on the road. We are saving X amount of scholarships for portal kids because they only participate late in the game, so you must have scholarships in your pocket to meet them.

At the start of the 2021 season, Utah signed several players from the transfer portal, with mixed results. Quarterback Charlie Brewer was named a starter but left after Game 3. Running backs TJ Pledger and Chris Curry, defensive back Brandon McKinney and wide receiver Theo Howard all helped the Utes deep.

Whittingham is happy the NCAA is allowing schools to sign more players this season.

“It’s a big help. It was a great NCAA initiative to do so. It still needs to be balanced, ”he said. “The basics of our recruiting and where we recruit the most high school athletes will not change. But now it is completed by the portal.

“There’s a lot less opportunity for junior college players because more teams seem to be going the high school route and complementing that with transfer guys. The guys at JC used to fill out that bill, but now it’s changed. … If you look back 25 years historically, we’ve always had six to 10 JC guys in each class. That number fell to one, two or three.

Utah Utes running back Tavion Thomas dances in the end zone after scoring a touchdown against the Oregon Ducks in the Pac-12 Championship game at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas on Friday, December 3, 2021. The Utes picked up Thomas from the JC ranks, which happens less and less frequently these days because of the transfer portal.
Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

Running back Tavion Thomas was one of the few junior college players signed by the Utes last season and it worked well as he ran for 1,041 yards and 20 touchdowns.

Whittingham said he does not have a specific number of scholarships aside for the transfer portal.

“It just depends on the specific needs for that year. The reason you keep some of these scholarships in your pocket is because the needs haven’t come up yet, ”he said. “You have a couple of guys who are transferred to a certain group of positions, which can be pretty damaging. You had better have something in your pocket so that you can rectify this situation.

At quarterback, Utah saw four-star quarterback Peter Costelli enter the transfer portal in November. He signed with the Utes a year ago and has never played down.

The coach was “disappointed” by Costelli’s decision.

“Peter is a great boy. He hadn’t been in the program for very long. We would have liked him to stay and show what he could do. But he decided moving forward was in his best interest. I guess there are a lot of people. … The portal explodes.

“There are over 7,000 names in there, Peter being one of them. We thank him for his time here. He is a hard worker and he was completely dedicated to the program. He just felt like it was in his best interests to move on. We wish him good luck.

Part of the reason Costelli decided to leave could be due to the strength of the Utah quarterback, which includes second-year Cam Rising and first-year Ja’Quinden Jackson, with Johnson scheduled to sign this week.

“Could be. That’s part of it,” Whittingham said. “With what we’re hoping to get by recruiting into this class, I think that could have been accounted for.”

Utah Utes quarterback Peter Costelli (8) hands over to Utah Utes running back TJ Pledger (5).

Utah quarterback Peter Costelli hands over to TJ Pledger in the Red & White game in Salt Lake City on Saturday, April 17, 2021. Costelli has informed the Utes he is entering the transfer gate.
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Utah’s coaching staff invested a lot of time and money in recruiting Costelli, only to see him leave in his first season on the program. But Whittingham and his staff will continue to recruit players hard despite the risks.

“You always break your ass and go out of your way to recruit the players you have targeted in your program. You often spend hundreds of hours on particular kids and when they get here sometimes they have a quick exit and there’s nothing you can do about it, ”Whittingham said. “Conversely, there are kids that you don’t spend much time with and they fall to your knees and end up being great players.

“So there is no guarantee that the time spent on a player translates to how good he will be. It is not an exact science. You often spend tons of hours of work and time for a Short career. That’s just the way it goes, I guess.

As the cliché says, recruiting is the lifeblood of a program.

Asked in mid-November about why Oregon has been so successful under coach Mario Cristobal – who has since left the job to take the job in Miami – Whittingham stressed bringing talented players in the program.

“Recruitment. In a nutshell, recruiting. That’s what it’s all about at this level. If you do it the right way, then you have a chance,” said Whittingham. Outstanding recruiting job over the last few years and they’ve done a great job this year as well. It’s hard to coach a good recruiting. That’s what they’ve done and that’s why they’ve won so many games. Not to take anything away from them as staff coaching, but the number 1 criterion is recruitment and talent.

It’s all about recruiting. And the recruiting process, in terms of where teams find players to meet immediate needs, is changing.

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