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SALT LAKE CITY — The University of Utah campus shut down Wednesday because of a big snowstorm. Only essential operations, like the university’s hospital, were up and running.
But the fax machines inside the university’s football facility were humming along early, undeterred by the snow on the NCAA’s opening day for the national signing period for football. The Utes weren’t going to let the snow stop them from signing seven more athletes Wednesday to its 2019 recruiting class, with more on the way.
"We feel we definitely improved our roster with this year's recruiting class,” Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham said in a statement. “Although we didn’t have as many scholarships available to give as we normally do, we were able to sign a strong group of players across the board.
"We expect to sign three-four more players in the coming days who will add to the class. As always, our assistants continue to do a great job evaluating talent across the country, bringing in student-athletes from eight different states."
Utah filled out the majority of its recruiting class Wednesday with the late signing of four-star running back Jordan Wilmore and three-star safety Sione Vaki. Wilmore had long been a USC commit but decommitted from the program in January as his interest turned to Utah.
Wilmore, though, seemed to shift to Arizona State late in the recruiting process and appeared ready to commit to the Sun Devils before pulling an audible Wednesday, according to recruiting experts at 247sports, and signing with the Utes at an afternoon signing day ceremony. The powerful back will give Utah considerable depth at the running back position that is led by Zack Moss.
Vaki signed Wednesday afternoon at his church in California. He plans to serve a two-year church mission before officially joining the football program.
Utah is still waiting for a few more recruiting prospects to announce their decision before it can officially round out the 2019 recruiting class in April. Four-star receiver Puka Nacua, the brother of current Utah receiver Samson Nacua, delayed his decision to sign Wednesday, according to the Deseret News.
Nacua is already committed to USC but is expected to flip his commitment to either Oregon, Utah or Washington, with the Huskies holding an advantage. But a late push by Utah is a possibility as the dynamic receiver looks to stay home with the local Pac-12 program.
Bingham High teammates Simote Pepa and Junior Tafuna are expected to move their signing ceremony to Thursday morning. Pepa, a three-star defensive tackle, is expected to sign with Utah; Tafuna, a three-star linebacker, is committed to the Utes, but will be a sign-and-send as he delays his recruitment for a two-year church mission.
Utah officially recognized the signing of quarterback Cameron Rising, who transferred following his freshman season at Texas. Rising, a once four-star recruit, will sit out the next season per NCAA transfer rules. In an interview with the Pac-12 Network, Whittingham said the program was looking to get him eligible by fall but still had “some work” to do to see if it was possible.
“We knew of Cam coming out of high school, out of Newbury Park, and we just kept our eye on that transfer portal,” he said. “And when his name popped in there, we kind of lit up. It’s a great get for us.”
Rising is joined by four-star offensive tackle Bamidele Olaseni, who is sure to add some instant physicality and talent to an offensive line that is replacing three starters to graduation. Olaseni comes in as a junior college transfer and is considered “a huge asset” to Whittingham.
“We were persistent and stayed on him and gained his trust,” Whittingham told the Pac-12 Network. “And, obviously, took a campus visit here and had a great visit here. We were fortunate to get him today.”
Others signing with Utah are three-star athletes Luke Felix-Fualalo, who has already enrolled at the university after signing his letter of intent in December, and defensive backs JaTravis McCloud and Drew Rawls. Rawls, a 6-foot defensive back from Beaumont, Texas, signaled his commitment Tuesday night and was the first to sign his letter of intent Wednesday.
The seven Utah signed Wednesday join the 12 that previously signed during the early signing period in December. Another four-star receiver, Darren Jones, was expected to sign with Utah Wednesday, but there were questions about whether the San Bernardino, California, native could qualify academically.
Jones is expected to stay close with the program as he looks to become eligible. Whether he signs for the 2019 recruiting class is still to be determined.
To see the full 2019 recruiting class for Utah, visit the KSL.com recruiting central page.