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SALT LAKE CITY — A day after signing 18 new recruits as part of the NCAA’s early signing day period, Utah did even better Thursday.
Utah got word from four-star cornerback Clark Phillips III that he was flipping his long-time commitment to Ohio State to sign with the Utes. Phillips is ranked No. 47 nationally and the fourth-best corner in the country. His commitment to Utah makes him the highest-ever recruit to sign with Utah, according to 247Sports.com.
The 5-foot-10, 178-pound Phillips committed to Ohio State in June and was solidly set on becoming another great corner with the Buckeyes, but decided to take an official visit to Utah last weekend ahead of the early signing date. The visit, according to 247Sports.com, went well enough to sway Phillips to consider a switch in his commitment.
On Thursday, before students at La Habra High in La Habra, California, Phillips’ principal called out Utah as his future destination as he said “Go Utes!”
Phillips becomes an instant impact player for Utah’s secondary after junior cornerback Jaylon Johnson declared for the NFL draft. Johnson, one of Utah’s highest-ever recruits, set the standard for heralded players to find success at Utah and carve out a path to the NFL.
I sincerely appreciate everyone who recruited me throughout this process. It has been a blessing. Go Utes! pic.twitter.com/jIINUd1p5e— Clark Phillips III (@ClarkPhillips28) December 19, 2019
Although Phillips was recruited to play corner at the next level, he also played receiver in high school, where he recorded 29 receiving touchdowns and averaged more than 14 yards per catch in his last two seasons at La Habra, according to MaxPreps. Phillips finished his high school career with 13 interceptions, seven of which came his sophomore season.
Phillips held offers from 36 programs, including Alabama, California, Ohio State and nearby USC, but only took official visits to California, Ohio State, USC and Utah, according to 247Sports.com. He plans to enroll at Utah in January to get a jump start with his new team in spring football.
The Utes also closed out its best in-state recruiting with the signing of four-star defensive end Xavier Carlton Thursday morning. The Juan Diego High star defensive player was the No. 3 overall prospect from the state of Utah and one of five of the top six in-state recruits to sign with the hometown team.
Carlton, who held offers from 28 Power Five programs, joins four-star defensive end Van Fillinger, the No. 2 overall prospect in the state, from Corner Canyon High as Utah’s top in-state recruits. It’s the first time Utah has signed four of the top five in-state recruits, according to 247Sports.com.
Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham said Wednesday the team is seeing more success in the in-state recruiting due to “winning, being in the Pac-12, just our brand growing.” He added that playing in the Pac-12 Championship game the last two seasons and being a team on “the national forefront in the College Football Playoff rankings toward the last part of the year, all that adds up to more positive stuff for your recruiting.”
“We have always placed the highest priority on the in-state athlete, that's our starting point. Every recruiting class starts with making sure that we properly evaluate everybody inside the boundaries of our state,” Whittingham said. “We do the best we can of keeping those guys home.
“We do the best we can,” he added, noting that even Blue Blood programs struggle to often keep all their top in-state talent.. “It's not like we thought, 'Well, we're not working hard enough in state, let's work extra hard this year.’ We always do as much work as we can in state and be thorough and evaluate thoroughly and just hope that we can get our fair share. And this year, like I said, we will feel really good about that.”
Utah also signed three-star offensive lineman Solatoa Moea'i late Thursday afternoon. Moea'i, a recruit out of Hawaii, is listed as a four-star lineman by 247 Sports, but is a three-star athlete using the 247 Sports Composite ranking, which factors in all the recruiting services.
Utah now has 21 athletes signed to the 2020 recruiting class and only a handful of scholarships left available to utilize for the current recruiting class. The Utes will likely get another signee Friday when athlete Kenzel Lawler from Eleanor Roosevelt High in Corona, California, is expected to send in his letter of intent.
"We will get to 25 after this week," Whittingham said Wednesday afternoon. "We may have — I think three would be the absolute high number that we'll have left, and one or zero would be the low number."
With Phillips, Carlton and Moea'i signing Thursday, Utah moved up to No. 32 in the national recruiting rankings, up 18 spots from where it stood at the end of Wednesday. Utah also moved up to No. 5 in the Pac-12, up from ninth Wednesday. Utah holds an average rating of .8703, according to 247 Sports, which beats out last season's average of .8612 — it's highest-ever average.
Utah signed 18 recruits Wednesday, with a majority of them filling out the defensive side of the ball. Whittingham said the "theme" for the incoming recruiting class was focused on the defense. That theme continued Thursday by signing Phillips and Carlton.
"We were down in defensive numbers last year — scholarship numbers — so there's going to be a pretty decent imbalance of defense to offensive guys this year to try to catch up," Whittingham said. "But we feel like we're getting some really good players added to our roster."
To read more and see highlights for each recruit, go to our Ute Recruit Central.