Thunderbird Football Inks 24 On National Signing Day, Brings Total Class To 30

Thunderbird head coach Demario Warren and the Southern Utah football program have revealed their recruiting class for the 2018 signing period, and the future continues to look very bright in Cedar City.

“I think we got a lot of talent, a lot of depth, guys that will come at different waves with missionaries, walk ons and scholarship kids,” SUU head coach Demario Warren said. “The staff did a great job of finding talent, identifying it and selling this place for what it is as an amazing place to be a part of and I’m grateful for the guys that signed today.”

The following players will be joining T-Bird Nation, along with those that were announced in the Early Signing Period.

“This was the hardest class we’ve worked for,” Warren added. “I felt like we were grinding for three straight weeks really hard, and it was a battle each and every day.”

Garrett Buchanan, TE, 6-5, 210, Bountiful, Utah (Bountiful HS)

After playing a trio of sports for the Bountiful Braves, Buchanan is making his way to Cedar City to suit up for the Thunderbird football team. Buchanan appeared in three games in 2017, where he had seven catches for 80 yards and two touchdowns. The native of Bountiful will join T-Bird nation as a tight end after being named First Team All-State.

Jayden Clark, LB, 6-0, 210, Dublin, California (Dublin HS)

A dual threat on the high school level, Clark will join the Thunderbirds as a linebacker. During his senior season he had 180 total tackles, 21 tackles for loss and four sacks. He was also a threat on the offensive side of the ball, rushing 61 times for 285 yards and a touchdown, as well as catching seven balls for 76 yards and a touchdown. He is the son of Greg Clark, a former NFL player most known for his time with the San Francisco 49ers.

Hayden Erickson, ATH, 6-3, 250, Lehi, Utah (Lehi HS)

Erickson lined up at defensive end for the Lehi Pioneers, and will come to Southern Utah as an athlete with the ability to play multiple positions. As a senior Erickson compiled 37 total tackles, and finished the season with seven sacks. He also deflected four passes, forced two fumbles and recovered another. Erickson was named First Team All-Region.

Austin Ewing, WR, 6-1, 185, Kealakekua, Hawaii (Konawaena HS)

Flying to T-Bird Nation from Hawaii, Ewing will suit up as a wide receiver for SUU after a career at quarterback for Konawaena High School. During his sophomore season, Ewing threw for 2,250 yards and 30 touchdowns. Ewing played both football and basketball for the Wildcats.

Sese Felila, RB, 5-7, 170, Salt Lake City, Utah (Kearns HS)

The little brother of current SUU running back James Felila, Sese will join the Thunderbirds after a huge senior season at Kearns High School. Appearing in nine games, Felila carried the ball 196 times for 1,416 yards and 20 touchdowns. He averaged 157.3 yards per game, and had a season long of 84. He also had a huge 2016 season where he ran for 1,700 yards and 22 touchdowns. He helped lead Kearns to a 9-2 record last season. He was also named the 2017 All-Tribune Team.

Artese Gregory, OL, 6-2, 285, Plainfield, Illinois (Plainfield East HS)

Gregory will join the Thunderbirds from Plainfield East High School in Illinois, where he played on the offensive line for the Bengals. Gregory is referred to as “The Beast from the East” by the Thunderbird coaching staff, and will play a major factor for years to come.

Draycen Hall, RB, 5-7, 185, Gilbert, Arizona (Higley HS)

Hall is coming off a very strong career for the Knights. Over his four seasons (three varsity, one freshman) Hall ran for 4,572 yards and broke into the endzone 65 times. As a senior, Hall carried the ball 152 times, ran for 1,893 yards and scored 32 touchdowns. He had a long of 97 yards. He also has solid hands, pulling in 136 passes for 1,890 yards and 15 touchdowns over the course of his four seasons. As a kick returner, Hall returned 46 kickoffs for 1,446 yards and 55 punts for 679 yards. He accounted for 518 points in his high school career. Hall also runs a 10.7 100-meter dash.

Leonidas Jacobsen, OL, 6-3, 245, St. George, Utah (Desert Hills HS)

Coming up I-15, Jacobsen will join the Thunderbird football family as an offensive lineman. Hailing from St. George, Jacobsen attended Desert Hills High School, where he played football for the Thunder and head coach Troy Coil. H was also voted Desert Hills’ Most Improved Player last season.

Carlton Johnson, CB, 5-11, 170, Moreno Valley, California (Rancho Verde HS)

Joining T-Bird Nation from California, Johnson played in the defensive backfield for Rancho Verde High School. Johnson finished the 2017 season with six interceptions and 20 pass deflections. He had 57 tackles as a senior in 2017, four of which were for loss. Johnson also had two interceptions in 2016.

Jacob Johnson, K, 6-4, 195, Boise, Idaho (Timberline HS)

Joining the Thunderbird special teams unit will be Johnson out of Boise, Idaho. As a senior for Timberline High School, Johnson handled both the kicking and punting duties. He finished the season 34-of-35 on PAT’s, and made seven field goals during the year with a long of 44 yards. Johnson accounted for 55 points as a senior. He also pinned four punts inside the 20 and forced 30 touchbacks on kickoffs.

Austin Kirkby, DL, 6-3, 230, Orem, Utah (Orem HS)

Fresh off a 12-2 season at Orem High School, Kirkby joins the Thunderbirds as a defensive lineman. Kirkby was a beast on the line for the Tigers, finishing the season with 20.5 sacks. In total, Kirkby had 82 tackles to go along with 23 tackles for loss over the course of the season. He also was credited with two blocked field goals and 31 quarterback hurries.

Drake Knowles, DL, 6-1, 265, Lehi, Utah (Lehi HS)

Joining the Thunderbird defensive line is Knowles out of Lehi High School. In seven games his senior season he had 20 total tackles, 1.5 sacks and three tackles for loss. Knowles will help provide depth up front for the Thunderbirds as they move forward. He was named First Team All-State by both the Deseret News and Salt Lake Tribune.

Lance Lawson, RB, 5-7, 180, Mesa, Arizona (Red Mountain HS)

Lawson did a little bit of everything for Red Mountain High School, with stats in nearly every category. Coming to SUU as a running back, Lawson’s numbers on the ground are very impressive. Over his four years playing varsity, he carried the ball 487 times for 3,070 yards and scored 36 touchdowns. Lawson spent time at quarterback as well, completing 102 passes for 1,507 yards and 22 touchdowns over the course of his career. He was also a threat catching the ball, pulling in 91 grabs for 1,188 yards and 11 touchdowns. Along with playing defense and returning kicks, Lawson truly did it all for the Mountain Lions. He was also the 6A Region Player of the Year.

Kobi Matagi, LB, 6-1, 190, Salt Lake City, Utah (Bingham HS)

Coming off a victory in the 6A State Championship game, Matagi is set to join T-Bird Nation from Bingham High School. Bingham defeated East in the State Championship game in Salt Lake City 27-14. As a senior, Matagi appeared in nine games and had a total of 35 tackles. He also finished the year with two sacks and two interceptions. Matagi played both linebacker and defensive back for Bingham, and will primarily line up at LB for Southern Utah.

Tanner McLachlan, TE, 6-5, 210, Queen Creek, Arizona (American Leadership Academy)

McLachlan will join the T-Bird football program from Queen Creek, Arizona where he caught 27 passes for 640 yards his senior year. McLachlan broke into the endzone 10 times through the air, and once on the ground. He also had 112 rushing yards over the course of the season while earning First Team All-Arizona status at TE.

Tiger Mulitalo, OL, 6-0, 270, West Valley, Utah (Granger HS)

Making his way to Southern Utah from Granger High School, Mulitalo will be joining T-Bird Nation as an offensive lineman. Mulitalo will join an already young core on the o-line that will continue to grow together for several years to come. He earned various All-State honors in the state of Utah.

Braxton Pearce, OL, 6-0, 265, Herriman, Utah (Herriman HS)

After a career at Herriman High School, Pearce will join the Thunderbird football program to play offensive line. While playing in Herriman, Pearce played both offensive line and defensive line. During the 2017 season he finished the season with 14 tackles, while also playing all season on the OL.

Demontii Peoples, CB, 6-0, 170, Los Angeles, California (Narbonne HS)

After a successful senior season in the defensive backfield for Narbonne High School, Peoples is looking to continue his success in Cedar City. Peoples had eight interceptions his senior season, and racked up 46 pass deflections. He also had 45 tackles during the course of the season. He also sealed a State Championship for his team with an interception.

Mike Petty, DL, 6-4, 220, Draper, Utah (Corner Canyon HS)

Moving from Draper to Cedar City, Petty will be joining the Thunderbirds as a defensive lineman after playing that position and tight end in high school. Petty was a nightmare for opposing offensive lines, as he finished with 10 sacks in 2017 after having 20 in 2016. He finished the 2017 season with 69 tackles and eight tackles for loss, which followed up a season where he had 84 tackles and 30 tackles for loss. He was also named First Team All-State, as well as Academic All-State.

Christian Reis, LB, 5-11, 225, St. George, Utah (Pine View HS)

After three solid years as a linebacker for the Pine View Panthers in St. George, Christian Reis will make his way north to lineup for the Thunderbirds and join one of the strongest defensive fronts in the Big Sky. In three years with Pine View, Reis had 255 tackles and 34 tackles for loss. He also finished his career as a Panther with six sacks.

Aaron Romero, DL, 6-2, 240, Mesa, Arizona (Skyline HS)

Romero is yet another T-Bird making their way to SUU from Arizona, where he was a defensive force. Romero had 88 career tackles for Skyline High School, and 14 career tackles for loss. He also had five sacks his senior year to go along with one interception.

Logan Taylor, S, 6-0, 185, Los Angeles, California (Narbonne HS)

Taylor will be making his way to Cedar City from Narbonne High School, where he had a fantastic season in their defensive backfield. Last season as a senior Taylor finished the year with 10 interceptions, which he returned for 171 yards. He had 87 tackles in 2017 as well.

Tyler Trotter, DL, 6-3, 250, Pleasant Grove, Utah (Pleasant Grove HS)

Moving south from Pleasant Grove to Cedar City, Trotter will be joining the T-Birds as a defensive lineman. As a senior Trotter accumulated 55 tackles and nine sacks. He had 18 career sacks for Pleasant Grove in his three seasons playing varsity football. He was also named All-Region and All-State.

Gerald Wilbon, WR, 6-2, 185, Mesa, Arizona (Red Mountain HS)

Joining T-Bird Nation to play wide receiver, Wilbon comes to Cedar City from Mesa, Arizona out of Red Mountain High School. In 2017, Wilbon appeared in 10 games for the Mountain Lions and caught 28 passes for 600 yards. Wilbon broke into the endzone seven times during the course of the year. He also accounted for three interceptions.

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CORRECTION: Watson Atsi was signed two days after National Signing Day, bringing the class total to 31.

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SUU Athletics Strategic Communications