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Utah focuses on D line, backs and QBs

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - Utah used national signing day to load up on defensive linemen, running backs and quarterbacks as those were the three most pressing needs for a team coming off a 5-7 season.

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The Utes lost three starters along the defensive line in Star Lotulelei, and Dave and Joe Kruger. They signed a handful at the position, including two from Trinity High School in Euless, Texas - 6-foot-5 defensive end Sam Tevi and 6-5 defensive tackle Keio Vaenuku. The Utes added 6-4 offensive tackle Salesi Uhatafe, also from Trinity.

With just one quarterback returning who has played a college game, the Utes signed three prep stars in Brandon Cox, Conner Manning and Micah Thomas.

Utah returns Travis Wilson and Adam Schulz, both freshmen last season, at quarterback.

Utah also signed four running backs as the Utes aim to replace John White.

Devontae Booker, a junior college transfer from California, is expected to push Kelvin York.

The Utes needed help at cornerback, having lost both starters and their nickel back. They added one-time Cal signee Tevin Carter and JC transfer Davion Orphey.

``We helped ourselves with speed and size,'' said coach Kyle Whittingham, addressing areas that were notable deficiencies in making the jump to the Pac-12 Conference two years ago.

The Utes have only three Utah players in this year's recruiting class but Whittingham said others cannot be announced yet as they are headed on church missions first.

``There are some Pac-12 schools that did very well, the usual suspects,'' Whittingham said. ``I think we're holding our own. It's a process.

``The NFL is full of guys who have come through here and weren't five-star kids.''

Whittingham said he was able to lure three quarterbacks because it is more appealing to be competing against each other as opposed to well-established players.

He also said the flip-flopping of Aaron Roderick had no impact on recruiting. Roderick is Utah's receivers and passing game coordinator, and a day after accepting a position at his alma mater Brigham Young in mid-January, opted to return to Utah.

``I'm just glad he's here,'' Whittingham said.

Copyright 2017 by STATS LLC and Associated Press.
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