Utah Utes football: Re-grading the recruits

College football national letter of intent signing day is just around the corner. Coming off the best season in the Pac-12 that the Utes have had since joining the league, Utah fans are pumped waiting to see what bigtime recruits will help to carry them to new heights moving forward. Most of the excitement comes because of the star ranking that is attached to each of the signees.

While those star rankings are huge when grading how a team did in recruiting, it doesn’t tell the whole story on how good a player can be. Some guys develop late while others just have the heart and the work ethic to be stars no matter what their high school film says. Some guys who come in with a lot of fan fare don’t pan out while some who were afterthoughts on the big recruiting boards become stars.

This list takes a look at some of the most prominent players from the Utes over the last 15 years, to see how they performed compared to their original ranking.

 

Note: All original star rankings are from Rivals.com.

 

Steve Savoy, two-star, wide receiver, 2002

Savoy landed on the hill as the two-star recruit out of Washington, DC and had two fantastic seasons before he left early for the NFL. He was a First-Team All-MWC performer and a SportsIllustrated.com Second-Team All-American. His best season came in 2004 when he caught 67 passes for 961 yards and 11 touchdowns. He added 22 carries for 307 yards and six more scores.

For his Utah career, he had 107 receptions for 1,624 yards and 18 touchdowns with six rushing scores in two seasons.

Production: Five-star

Alex Smith, two-star, quarterback, 2002

Smith came to Utah as a two-star prospect out of La Mesa, California and left as the No.1 overall pick by the San Francisco 49ers in the 2005 NFL draft. His best season came in 2004 when he was the MWC Offensive Player of the Year, The Sporting News National Player of the Year, and a Heisman Trophy finalist after he completed 67.5 percent of his throws for 2,952 yards and 32 touchdowns with just four interceptions. He added 631 yards and 10 scores in the running game.

For his Utah career, he completed 66.3 percent of his throws for 5,203 yards and 47 touchdowns to go along with 1,072 yards and 15 scores on the ground.

Production: Five-star

Brandon Warfield, two-star running back, 2002

Warfield landed with the Utes as a two-star recruit out of Houston, Texas and had two solid seasons. His most impressive season came in 2003 when he carried the ball 237 times for 976 yards and 11 touchdowns to go along with seven catches for 41 yards.

For his Utah career, he had 438 carries for 1,895 yards and 20 touchdowns. He added 12 receptions for 69 yards.

Production: Three-star

Eric Weddle, two-star, defensive back, 2003

Weddle landed on the hill as the two-star recruit out of Rancho Cucamonga, California and left as a second round pick by the San Diego Chargers in the 2007 NFL draft. He was a two-time MWC Defensive Player of the Year and a 2006 consensus All-American. One of his best seasons came in 2005 when he had 77 tackles, 12 pass breakups, 10.5 tackles for loss, four sacks, four interceptions and three forced fumbles.

For his Utah career, he had 277 tackles, 23 pass breakups, 22.5 tackles for loss, 18 interceptions, 10 sacks and nine forced fumbles.

Production: Five-star

Quinton Ganther, two-star, running back, 2004

Ganther came to Utah as a two-star prospect out of Richmond, California and left as a seventh round pick by the Tennessee Titans in the 2006 NFL draft. His best season came in 2005 when he totaled 205 carries for 1,120 yards and seven touchdowns while catching 25 passes for 314 yards and another score.

For his Utah career, he carried the ball 314 times for 1,774 yards and nine touchdowns. He added 32 receptions for 363 yards and two more scores.

Production: Three-star

Brian Johnson, two-star, quarterback, 2004

Johnson landed with the Utes as a two-star recruit out of Baytown, Texas and left as the winning-est quarterback in school history. He was a First-Team All-MWC performer and the 2008 MWC Offensive Player of the Year. His best season came in 2008 when he led the Utes to an undefeated record after he completed 68 percent of his passes for 2,972 yards and 27 touchdowns. He added 128 yards an another score in the running game.

For his Utah career, he completed 66.2 percent of his throws for 7,853 yards and 57 touchdowns to go along with 848 yards and 12 rushing scores.

Production: Five-star

Paul Kruger, two-star, defensive lineman, 2004

Kruger came to the Utes as a two-star prospect out of Timpanogos High School and left as a second round pick in by the Baltimore Ravens in the 2009 NFL draft. He was a 2008 All-American Honorable mention by SportsIllustrated.com and a First-Team All-MWC honoree. His best season came in 2008 when he registered 61 tackles, 16.5 tackles for loss, seven sacks, seven pass breakups and two forced fumbles.

For his Utah career, he had 124 tackles, 24 tackles for loss, 12 pass breakups, 10.5 sacks and three forced fumbles.

Production: Four-star

Brent Casteel, two-star, wide receiver, 2004

Casteel landed on the hill as the two-star recruit out of San Francisco, California and had three productive seasons. His best season came in 2006 when he had 39 catches for 600 yards and 10 touchdowns to go along with 51 carries for 262 yards.

For his Utah career, he had 128 receptions for 1,654 yards and 17 touchdowns. He added 106 carries for 549 yards and two more scores.

Production: Three-star

Zane Beadles, two-star, offensive lineman, 2005

Beadles came to Utah as a two-star prospect out of Hillcrest High School and left as a second round pick by the Denver Broncos in the 2010 NFL draft. He was a two-time First-Team MWC selection and a 2009 FWAA, College Football News and Phil Steele First-Team All-American.

Production: Five-star

Brice McCain, two-star, cornerback, 2005

McCain landed with the Utes as a two-star recruit out of Terrell, Texas and left as a sixth round pick by the Houston Texans in the 2009 NFL draft. His best season came in 2008 when he was a First-Team All-Mountain West Conference selection after he recorded 35 tackles, five pass breakups, two tackles for loss and a sack.

Foe his Utah career, he totaled 103 tackles, 21 pass breakups, three interceptions and 2.5 tackles for loss.

Production: Three-star

Sean Smith, two-star, defensive back, 2005

Smith came to the Utes as a two-star prospect out of Pasadena, California and left as a second round pick by the Miami Dolphins in the 2009 NFL draft. His best season came in 2008 when he was a First-Team All-MWC selection after he totaled 53 tackles, eight pass breakups, five interceptions, two tackles for loss and a sack.

For his Utah career, he had 86 tackles, 15 pass breakups, nine interceptions and three tackles for loss.

Production: Four-star

Louie Sakoda, two-star, kicker, 2005

Sakoda landed on the hill as the two-star recruit out of San Jose, California and left as the most decorated Ute of all-time. He was a First-Team All-American as a punter and kicker as well as a three-time MWC Special Teams Player of the Year. His best season as a kicker came in 2008 when he connected on 22 of 24 field goals and 56 of 57 extra points.

For his Utah career, he had 308 points on 57 of 66 field goals while averaging 42.1 yards on 242 punts.

Production: Five-star

Stevenson Sylvester, two-star, linebacker, 2006

Sylvester came to Utah as a two-star prospect out of Las Vega, Nevada and left as a fifth round pick by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 2010 NFL draft. One of his best seasons came in 2009 when he was a First-Team All-Mountain West Conference honoree after he totaled 81 tackles, five tackles for loss, two sacks and two pass breakups.

For his Utah career, he totaled 262 tackles, 24.5 tackles for loss, 12 pass breakups, nine sacks and four forced fumbles.

Production: Four-star

Robert Johnson, Three-star, defensive back, 2007

Johnson landed on the hill as a three-star recruit out of Los Angeles Southwest College and had three impressive seasons in the secondary. His best season came in 2009 when he was First-Team All-Mountain West Conference after he had 70 tackles, six interceptions, five pass breakups and four tackles for loss.

For his Utah career, he had 155 tackles, 13 interceptions, 12 pass breakups, five tackles for loss and three forced fumbles.

Production: Four-star

Koa Misi, three-star, linebacker, 2007

Misi landed with the Utes as a three-star recruit out of Santa Rosa Junior College and left as a second round pick by the Miami Dolphins in the 2010 NFL draft. ONe of his best seasons came in 2009 when he was First-Team All-MWC honoree after he totaled 71 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss, five sacks and three forced fumbles.

For his Utah career, he had 206 tackles, 24.5 tackles for loss, 10.5 sacks, 10 pass breakups and six forced fumbles.

Production: Four-star

Matt Asiata, three-star, running back, 2007

Asiata landed on the hill as a three-star recruit out of Snow College and had two solid seasons. His best year came in 2008 when he had 146 carries for 707 yards and 12 touchdowns to go along with 12 catches for 111 yards and another score.

For his Utah career, he had 379 carries for 1,748 yards and 24 touchdowns with 54 receptions for 394 yards and two more scores.

Production: Three-star

Derrick Shelby, two-star, defensive lineman, 2007

Shelby came to the Utah as a two-star prospect out of Houston, Texas and had four good seasons. His best year came in 2011 when he was a First-Team All-Pac-12 Conference performer after he had 52 tackles, nine tackles for loss, seven pass breakups, four sacks and an interception return for a touchdown.

For his Utah career, he had 166 tackles, 27 tackles for loss, 12 pass breakups, 10 sacks and five forced fumbles.

Production: Four-star

Jake Murphy, four-star, tight end, 2008

Murphy originally sign with the BYU Cougars as a four-star recruit out of American Fork High School, but landed with Utah after his mission. He had two solid seasons before he left early for the NFL draft. His best season came in 2013 when he caught 25 passes for 417 yards and five touchdowns.

For his Utah career, he had 63 receptions for 830 yards and 10 touchdowns

Production: Three-star

Sealver Siliga, two-star, defensive lineman, 2008

Siliga landed on the hill as the two-star recruit out of Copper Hills High School and had two solid seasons. His best year came in 2009 when he had 48 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss, four pass breakups and two sacks.

For his Utah career, he totaled 96 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, five pass breakups and 3.5 sacks.

Production: Three-star

Star Lotulelei, three-star, defensive lineman, 2010

Lotulelei came to Utah as a three-star prospect out of Sow College and left as a first round pick of the Carolina Panthers in the 2013 NFL draft. He was a two-time All-Pac-12 performer and a 2012 First-team Associated Press, Walter Camp and Athlon All-American. His best year came in 2012 when he had 42 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, five sacks, three pass breakups and three forced fumbles.

For his Utah career, he had 107 tackles, 21.5 tackles for loss, seven sacks, four pass breakups and four forced fumbles.

Production: Five-star

Nate Fakahafua (Orchard), three-star, defensive lineman, 2011

Fakahafua (Orchard) came to the Utes as a three-star prospect out of Highland High School and left as a second round pick by the Cleveland Browns in the 2015 NFL draft. He was a First-Team All-Pac-12 honoree, a Morris Award winner and named a First-Team All-American by six different publications. His best season came in 2014 when he totaled 84 tackles, 21 tackles for loss, 18.5 sacks, three pass breakups, and three forced fumbles.

For his Utah career, he recorded 186 tackles, 39.5 tackles for loss, 25 sacks, 10 pass breakups and eight forced fumbles.

Production: Five-star

John White IV, three-star, running back, 2011

White landed on the hill as the three-star recruit out of Los Angeles Harbor College and left as one of the best running backs the Utes have ever had and a Honorable-Mention All-American by SportsIllustrated.com. His best season came in when he had 316 carries for 1,519 yards and 15 touchdowns with 14 catches for 50 yards and two more scores.

For his Utah career, he carried the ball 534 times for 2,560 yards and 23 touchdowns with 29 receptions for 173 yards and three scores.

Production: Five-star

Travis Wilson, three-star, quarterback, 2012

Wilson came to Utah as a three-star prospect out of San Clemente, California and was under center as the Utes made big improvements in the Pac-12. His best season came in 2014 when he completed 60.7 percent of his passes for 2,170 yards and 18 touchdowns with  309 rushing yards and five scores.

For his Utah career, he completed 60.5 percent of his throws for 7,401 yards and 54 touchdowns. He also had 400 carries for 1,226 yards and 21 touchdowns.

Production: Three-star

Devontae Booker, three-star, running back, 2013

Booker landed with the Utes as a three-star recruit out of American River College and carried the Utah offense for two straight years. His best year came in 2014 when he was an All-Pac-12 performer after he carried the ball 292 times for 1,512 yards and 10 touchdowns while catching 43 passes for 306 yards and two more scores.

For his Utah career, he had 560 carries for 2,773 yards and 21 touchdowns. He added 80 receptions for 622 yards and two scores.

Production: Five-star

Kaelin Clay, three-star, wide receiver, 2014

Clay came to the Utes as a three-star prospect out of Mount San Antonio College and left as a sixth round pick by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the 2015 NFL draft. He was a First-Team All-Pac-12 performer and a First-Team All-American return man in his only year on the hill after he returned three punts and a kick for touchdowns. He also caught 43 passes for 523 yards and four more touchdowns.

Production: Five-star

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