SALT LAKE CITY — Utah hit the recruiting trail hard in December and signed 22 new recruits to its 2020 signing class. The Utes added to that total Wednesday with five additional recruits as part of the NCAA’s signing day period.
Coming into the day, Utah needed to add depth to the defensive side of the ball, while also securing another quarterback after a Baylor transfer commit signed with a different program in December. When it was all said and done Wednesday afternoon, Utah filled immediate roster spots and bolstered up its overall depth at the positions of need.
The morning began with the signing of cornerback Faybian Marks, a three-star recruit out of Richmond, Texas. Marks, who had two brothers that played at Alabama, committed to Utah on Jan. 28 and will add some much-needed depth to a secondary unit that was depleted after the 2019 season due to players graduating or leaving early to pursue the NFL draft.
Marks is an under-the-radar prospect and will need some development before he sees the field, but defensive coordinator Morgan Scalley and cornerbacks coach Sharrieff Shah have done well in the past to get the most out of a player. And given the lack of depth at the position, Marks could see the field sooner rather than later.
Also signing early Wednesday was junior college transfer Jeremy Mercier, a three-star linebacker recruit out of Arizona. The linebacker position was one of the biggest needs for Utah in this signing class, and Mercier will add some immediate depth to the position group that lost Francis Bernard to graduation.
Utah also signed a pro-style quarterback in Cooper Justice, a three-star recruit from Lake Oswego, Oregon. Justice is not expected to vie for the starting job immediately, but will add depth to a quarterback room led by Texas transfer Cam Rising and South Carolina transfer Jake Bentley, a quarterback with years of experience in the SEC.
Justice is another under-the-radar recruit, and offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig in a tweet from Utah said: “This is a quarterback who we’re excited to see develop in our program.” The quarterback battle will be one of the most interesting aspects of spring camp, which opens up on March 2.
Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham called Justice “raw,” but added that Ludwig wanted him because of his “upside.” He said he’s got the body type of Oregon’s former quarterback Justin Herbert and could play multiple positions, but ensured Justice is coming into the program as a quarterback.
Jason Shelley, who switched over from quarterback to safety for the team's Alamo Bowl matchup against Texas, will stay with the secondary unit, Whittingham added Wednesday.
Defensive tackle Keanu Tanuvasa, a three-star recruit out of Mission Viejo, California, was one of the last players to sign with the Utes Wednesday. Tanuvasa is expected to serve a two-year mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints before officially joining the Utah football program.
Defensive end Tanoa Togiai, in a late signing at his school in Rigby, Idaho, committed to Utah. The three-star recruit narrowed down his decision to Kansas State, Nebraska, Washington and Utah, with Washington seemingly the front-runner down the stretch. Togiai completes a reloaded defensive line that will help replace one of Utah’s best in program history in the 2019 season.
With its five signings Wednesday, Utah ranks No. 29 nationally and fifth in the Pac-12, according to 247 Sports. The 2020 recruiting class features an average rating of 0.8665, which is the highest ranking in program history.
In January, Utah signee Nate Ritchie was upgraded to a four-star recruit, which added to Utah’s overall recruiting ranking, as well as other players, such as Van Fillinger and Xavier Carlton, which saw their rating improve.