Utah football is back on the recruiting trail.
With the Big Sky Conference conference on the verge of folding and the Cougars having been a hot commodity in recent weeks, the program has turned its attention to the Pac-12, and that has included the West Coast.
But the Cougs have had some notable issues in recent years, including a controversial recruiting class in 2014.
Now, with the Pac 12 moving forward and Utah set to return to the NCAA tournament this weekend, they’re looking to improve their recruiting class to better suit their needs.
For starters, the Cougbs need to address the defensive line, which has been a major question mark this past season.
Utah ranked 23rd nationally in the nation in total defense, which is the second-highest mark in the Pac 10.
However, the defensive tackle position ranks third in the conference in total tackles, per Football Outsiders, and is ranked 11th in the country.
The Cougs need to add a player in the trenches to fill out the offensive line.
Defensive tackle is a position that the Pac 6 and Pac 10 have struggled to find success in recent seasons.
The conference has yet to find a consensus top-10 tackle in recent memory, and a top-30 one is unlikely this season.
The Pac-10 is looking to add some depth to the offensive tackle position, and there are a number of options in the state of Washington.
There’s former UW commit Jake Evans, who is ranked as the No. 2 tackle nationally and is considered a top prospect, but he is currently enrolled at Idaho.
Washington has two other options: former Huskies commit Sam Cote, who also is ranked by ESPN and is committed to Washington, and Washington State transfer Tyron Smith, who was a starter at right tackle in 2017 and is a top candidate to start this season at left tackle.
Smith is a player that the Cougar staff is intrigued by, as the Cougartes’ recruiting class had been a long time coming.
He is ranked in the top 30 in the class of 2018, according to Rivals.com, and he is considered one of the top prospects in the region, according a recent scouting report from 247Sports.
The Huskies, Washington State and Smith all ranked in that same top 30.
The recruiting process begins on the field, with each Pac-7 school recruiting in-state or overseas.
Pac-8 schools like Cal, UCLA, USC, Washington, Oregon, Oregon State and Washington are all recruiting in the Pacific Northwest, and the Pac 8 schools are recruiting in California, where the Pac 7s recruiting class is ranked No. 1.
The last Pac 8 school to get a commitment from an Oregon recruit was Cal in 2017, when the Ducks offered tight end Nick Aliotti, and it was another Oregon commit in 2019 when they signed receiver Tre’J Wells.
The first wave of recruits will be coming to the state, with several teams from the Pac 9, Pac 10, Pac 12, SEC and Big 12 schools looking to fill their defensive linemen.
The Pac 8 also has two Pac 10 prospects in Jaelen Strong, a tackle from UCLA, and former Husky DeForest Buckner, who played at right guard at UCLA.
The offensive line will be a major concern for Utah this season, as Utah finished No. 15 in the NCAA in rushing yards per game in 2017.
Strong and Cote are the only two offensive linemen on the Utah roster who finished in the Top 25 in rushing that season.
The Cougars are expected to add another offensive lineman in the coming weeks, as Strong’s departure from the program was reported by the Las Vegas Review-Journal on Monday.