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Thursday, February 4, 2010
Utes rally late to get top 2010 class

By Graham Watson

Utah coach Kyle Whittingham would be the first to acknowledge that the early half of national signing day was a little unsettling.

The Utes suffered a couple early blows by losing receiver Avery Williams to West Virginia and four-star defensive tackle Ricky Heimuli to Oregon. But as the day wore on, the Utes started to rally and put together what some consider the best class among the nonautomatic qualifying schools.

“We had a good rally on signing day,” Whittingham said. “We had a good idea that that might happen, but you never know for sure. We were able to get a few guys on signing day that were a few pleasant surprises. I won’t say surprises, but it was good to see their commitment sheets come in.”

The biggest name on the board is Fullerton Community College offensive tackle John Cullen, who picked the Utes over USC. Cullen, who took a late visit to Salt Lake City, said he connected with Utah quarterback Jordan Wynn and that that was part of the draw of coming to Utah. For the Utes, Cullen’s decision fills one of the few immediate voids on the depth chart.

“If you had to pinpoint a pressing need, it was probably replacing Zane Beadles at left tackle and John Cullen certainly gives us a leg up on that,” Whittingham said.

Cullen is one of four junior college players the Utes brought in for 2010.

The other saviors of the Utes' class were running back Lucky Radley and V.J. Fehoko, a linebacker and the only Hawaiian in the Utes’ class. Fehoko is rated as the No. 14 inside linebacker by ESPN’s Scouts Inc.

The addition of Radley brings the Utes’ scholarship running back total to five, but that could move to six should senior Matt Asiata earn a medical hardship waiver from the NCAA and be allowed to play in 2010.

The Utes also picked up two quarterbacks in Brian Blechen and Tyler Shreve since Terrance Cain is a senior and the Utes will only have two quarterbacks on the roster in 2011. However, Whittingham said he doesn’t plan to keep all four at quarterback. He noted that Griff Robles, who will be a redshirt freshman this year, and Blechen are athletic enough to play other positions.

“We really had a situation this year where we were really looking for the best athletes across the board. We didn’t really have an area that was decimated by graduation or what have you. We had the luxury to just take the best players we came across and I think we had a good cross section of players.”