There were many observers who thought there was a good chance that Utah's current recruiting class was going to fall apart with the departure of some key assistant coaches, but the class hasn't taken as big of a hit as some expected. The Utes have bounced back nicely and just picked up three new commitments this week from three very different players.
What kind of players are they getting in Kendall Huey, James Empey, and Britain Covey?
Kendall Huey - 3 star JC defensive end
When your program has to replace one of the top pass rushers in the nation from your defense, it's never going to be a quick fix. The Utes must be hoping though that part of Nate Orchard's production can be replaced by Huey.
Unfortunately, I don't think it will be as simple as just plugging Huey into where Orchard played and letting him loose because there are things that he needs to improve to be a productive pass rusher in the Pac-12. His snap anticipation is poor. It's not a quickness or lack of explosiveness issue. He's just not reacting like he should off the snap of the football and because of that he puts himself at a disadvantage far too often. The good news is that he shows the speed and lateral movement after the snap that is impressive. He also flashed that he could bend naturally around the edge. He needs to improve his hand violence and develop more than a speed rush as well as getting off the ball quicker, but he has the athletic tools to develop into a very good player in this area.
It's not surprising with the way he moves that he is an outstanding chase player versus the run, but he's a little light in his lower body and struggles to hold up at the point of attack. He needs to get stronger and be more physical. This and, once again, his snap anticipation, need to improve so he can do a better job of setting the edge.
He has the athleticism and long frame combined with a knack for creating turnovers if he gets an opportunity. That makes him an intriguing prospect. Fall camp will be huge for him to see where he stands in his development.
James Empey - 3 star guard
Guard recruits typically are undervalued, much like they are in the NFL Draft, so they aren't likely to get the headlines when they commit to a school. Utah fans should be excited about the addition of Empey to their class though as he is truly one of the more underrated players from the west this recruiting cycle.
He gets after it in the run game and plays nasty. He not only wants to drive his defender ten yards down the field, he wants to punctuate it by putting that defender on his back as well. Then when the defender tries to get up, he'll shove him back down again. That kind of nastiness can't be taught and it's awesome to see in an offensive line prospect.
He's not just going for broke trying to destroy guys either. He plays with solid technique. He does a nice job with his hand placement and he consistently keeps his pads low to get under defenders. He delivers a violent pop on contact without stopping his feet. He also moves well to get to the second level and is under control when he attacks linebackers before driving into them.
Although I think he is better suited to play guard, his feet are good enough for him to play tackle. He does a nice job of staying balanced in his pass set and delivers a strong punch.
He will need to add weight and strength to play at the next level, but that should come with time. I would not be surprised if he was one of the best interior offensive linemen in the Pac-12 in a couple of years.
Britain Covey - 2 star athlete
At 5'9" and around 160 pounds, Covey is beating the odds to play college football. When you see him run though, it's obvious why he is getting an opportunity with the University of Utah.
Covey has exceptional lateral agility and explodes out of his cuts. That's a huge reason why the high school quarterback projects well to be a jitterbug type of player that lines up in the slot. He will be extremely tough to cover if matched up with a linebacker and if he develops as a route runner, then he is the kind of player who should be able to create separation against most defensive backs who try to cover him as well.
I also wouldn't be surprised to see him used in jet sweep type plays or reverses. It would be surprising if he didn't compete as a returner early in his career as well.
I understand he will have limitations because of his size and that alone is enough to make you concerned about him being an every down player on offense because there will be questions as to whether he can do things like run block effectively to not be a liability. At the very least, he has the talent to be a player that is used in certain packages for the Utes. They might have gotten a steal with a commitment from Covey.