Kyle Whittingham and the Utes welcome in some new faces to help them defend their Pac-12 South title
Only 13 total seniors graduated from Utah following the 2018 season. It translated to head coach Kyle Whittingham signing a smaller than usual class in 2019. The Utes brought in a total of 21 players during the early signing period in December and on National Signing Day in February. These freshmen and transfers came from Utah, California, Texas, Florida, Arizona, Nevada, Oklahoma, New Jersey, Australia, and the United Kingdom.
This small class could still have a big impact. Utah filled some holes on the offensive line, in the secondary, and on special teams. The Utes also added players who could be future stars in the backfield and at quarterback.
Here's a look at four incoming freshmen and one key graduate transfer poised to make an immediate impact in the season ahead:
Jordan Wilmore, RB
Utah may have found a perfect eventual successor to Zack Moss in Wilmore. The 5-foot-8, 200-pound back tallied at least 2,000 rushing yards over three consecutive seasons at Lawndale (Calif.) HS. Wilmore is a prototypical power runner and also is consistent from down to down. He averaged 10.6 yards per carry during his high school career. The Utes held off a late push from Arizona State to land Wilmore, a four-star recruit, who originally committed to USC before opening up his recruitment again in January.
Bamidele Olaseni, OL
At 6-foot-8 and 330 pounds, the London native brings enough size to be an anchor up front. Olaseni earned NJCAA All-American honors last season at Garden City (Kan.) Community College and was a top target for the Utes in their 2019 class. Olaseni has strong footwork and balance and is an early candidate to replace Jackson Barton at left tackle this fall. Utah beat out the likes of Ohio State, Auburn, Nebraska, and Oklahoma State to land one of the top-ranked junior college tackles in the nation.
Keaton Bills, DL
Bills originally signed with Utah in 2016 before departing on a two-year LDS mission. The former three-star recruit totaled 69 tackles, 6.0 sacks, and 10 QB hurries as a senior at Corner Canyon (Utah) HS. Bills has enough size (6-4, 260) to be imposing up front without sacrificing quickness. He's the type of lineman who will be a smooth fit with what Utah does on defense and could play his way into the two-deep this fall.
Ben Lennon, P
Utah has turned into a special teams factory in recent seasons and Lennon has the tools to keep it going. He is the latest Australian punter to join the Utes, following in the footsteps of past Ray Guy Award winners Tom Hackett and Mitch Wishnowsky. Lennon cut his teeth in Australian Rules Football. He played four seasons in the Australian Football League from 2014-17, appearing in 21 games and scoring 10 goals.
Manny Bowen, LB
Graduate transfers normally aren't included in this exercise, but in Bowen's case we'll make an exception. The former Penn State standout will help fill an immediate need for the Utes, who are thin at linebacker with Chase Hansen and Cody Barton graduating. Bowen is expected to join fellow senior Francis Bernard as a starter. He started 21 games over three seasons for the Nittany Lions and totaled 134 tackles, 12.5 tackles for a loss, 3.5 sacks, three pass breakups, and two forced fumbles in that span.
— Written by John Coon, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Coon has more than a decade of experience covering sports for different publications and outlets, including The Associated Press, Salt Lake Tribune, ESPN, Deseret News, MaxPreps, Yahoo! Sports and many others. Follow him on Twitter @johncoonsports.