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Utah Football: Newcomers to Watch for the Utes

Kyle Whittingham, Utah Utes Football

Coming off Utah's first-ever Pac-12 title, head coach Kyle Whittingham has secured the best recruiting class in his now near-two-decade tenure

Utah has acquired plenty of talent to continue its reign atop the Pac-12 South.

The Utes just wrapped up one of their most successful seasons in school history, winning their third division title in four seasons and capturing their first-ever Pac-12 championship. Now, Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham has brought in his highest-ranked recruiting class to date.

Twenty players signed with Utah in its 2022 recruiting class. The Utes hauled in a class that ranks 38th nationally and fourth among Pac-12 teams according to 247Sports. A slew of talented linebackers headlines the class that includes three 4-star recruits.

Utah returns loads of talent and experience on both sides of the ball and will be a favorite to repeat as Pac-12 champions. Still, there are a few newcomers who are poised to make a splash for the Utes in the season ahead.

Mohamoud Diabate and Lander Barton, LB

Replacing players as dominant as Devin Lloyd and Nephi Sewell at linebacker would be challenging for any team. Lloyd was named Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year in 2021 and Sewell also earned all-conference honors. Utah brings some newcomers to the position who can earn a spot in the two-deep in the fall.

Diabate is already a proven playmaker at the Power 5 level. Diabate led Florida with 89 tackles and is disruptive and quick off the edge. He had three years of playing experience with the Gators before transferring to Utah. His blend of skills, athleticism, and experience will give Diabate favorable odds of claiming one of the two starting linebacker spots.

Barton comes to Utah as one of the highest-rated recruits in program history. The No. 1 overall in the state of Utah and as the No. 4 linebacker nationally, according to 247Sports. At 6-foot-4, the Brighton High School product has excellent size and length for making tackles and disrupting passes. Barton also has good instincts and is a ball hawk when it comes to forcing turnovers.

Kaeo Akana, DE

Aggressive edge rushers are a cornerstone of Utah's stifling defense and Akana fits the bill perfectly. Akana came to the Utes as the No. 2 overall prospect in Hawaii according to 247Sports and is a prototypical Utah edge rusher. The President Theodore Roosevelt High School signee has a non-stop motor and top-notch explosiveness for a defensive lineman, but at 215 pounds still needs to add more mass to boost his strength. Akana originally committed to Boise State but flipped to Utah ahead of the early signing period in December.

Jaylon Glover, RB

Utah has a strong running back tradition going back to its WAC days and Glover has the potential to be a future star at the position. Tavion Thomas and Micah Bernard will likely get the bulk of the snaps in the backfield, but Glover is talented enough to come in and push for time right away. He tallied 6,096 yards on 783 carries over four seasons at Lake Gibson (Fla.) High School. Glover has excellent instinct and speed as a runner which will lead to chunk plays more often than not. He chose the Utes over 42 other schools and will find a way onto the field once he learns the offense.

Tao Johnson and Carson Tabaracci, ATH

Utah picked up a pair of athletes who offer tantalizing promise at more than one position. Both Johnson and Tabaracci are versatile enough to play on offense or defense, which improves their odds of making an immediate impact in their debut seasons.

Johnson joined Utah as the No. 2 recruit out of Idaho according to 247Sports. He played quarterback at Thunder Ridge High School and flew under the radar before signing with the Utes. Johnson can play receiver or safety and will likely start out on offense. He won the Idaho 5A 100-meter state title with a time of 10.82 seconds. His acceleration, ability to change direction, and fluid running make him a promising receiver once he learns the nuances of the position.

Tabaracci, a 3-star recruit from Park City (Utah) High School is a good fit as a tight end or linebacker. He played running back for Park City and excelled at getting yards after contact. His power, 6-foot-2 frame, quick feet, and high football IQ mean Tabaracci will see the field sooner rather than later. He is a friend of linebacker Lander Barton and chose the Utes over 23 other schools.

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Written by John Coon, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a sports journalist based in Utah. Follow him on Twitter @johncoonsports.