Feb. 2 is an enormous day in college football every year, marking the last day that recruits have to decide where they take their football talents to next. It is a day full of excitement and chaos — exactly what was seen across the country on Wednesday.
Multiple perennial powerhouse schools highlighted the day as Texas A&M University pulled in a class full of 29 players, including six five-star athletes, while the University of Alabama continued its infamous ways by snagging 25 athletes with tons of top talent. At the FCS level, loads of teams made waves with the most prominent of the bunch being Southern Utah University.
After suffering through a 1-10 season last fall, SUU made a coaching change in December and named DeLane Fitzgerald as their new head coach. Upon arrival, Fitzgerald declared that SUU would be going through a transformation where this team would become disciplined, tough and competitive.
“We are going to have a culture of competitive greatness,” Fitzgerald said in his opening press conference. “With this group of guys, we are going to start doing things the right way and work our rear ends off to become a very good football team.”
Fitzgerald took a step in the right direction by adding 23 promising players to his first-ever signing class. In this class there are 15 high school players and eight transferring from other universities including athletes from Pennsylvania, California, Maryland, Washington, Virginia and Utah.
The class is full of outstanding athletes, highlighted by 12 in-state players coming to Cedar City — something Fitzgerald has made a point of doing.
The T-Birds snagged several in-state difference makers like 2022 6A Defensive Player of the year Connor Kelly from Lone Peak High School. Kelly played defensive end for the Knights and was a key catalyst in their run to a 6A State Championship. They also grabbed southern Utah native Jackson Griffiths who played at Crimson Cliffs High School. Griffiths played linebacker for the Mustangs and was named the 4A Defensive Player of the year, tallying 126 total tackles and 4.5 sacks during his senior year season.
On the offensive side of the ball, Haarevaa Hatitio will come to SUU from Juan Diego High School in Draper, Utah. Hatito was huge for the Soaring Eagles on the defensive and offensive lines as he was named First-Team All-State and All-Region. The T-Birds also added a crucial deep threat to their receiving core, Josh Sanders, who comes from Wasatch High School where he was a pivotal part of their success. Sanders was named First-Team All-Region and racked up seven touchdowns in his senior year.
SUU also picked up several out-of-state and college transfer prospects, the most notable being quarterback from Western Kentucky University, Grady Robison. Robison is an outstanding dual-threat player who was a standout performer in high school in Washington. He was named All-County MVP before going to WKU where he battled with NCAA passing leader Bailey Zappe day in and day out. Robison now comes to Cedar City focused and determined to show his skills — one of the five players from this class that transferred to SUU early and are enrolled.
Another exciting young transfer is Jackson Rigby from Utah State University who had a brief stint with the Aggies program. He stands at 6’4” and 230 pounds and was a game wrecker in high school for Davis High School where he was given First-Team All-Region and All-State honors.
Recruits from other states
Braden Lynch will arrive in Cedar City with loads of high school accolades as a safety. He hails from Alta Loma High School in California. Lynch was named First-Team All-California Intercollegiate League honors and First-Team All-Palomares League from 2019. He was also named Offensive and Defensive MVP at Alta Loma. Lynch is a highlight reel safety that makes destructive hits and can go from sideline to sideline.
Another native of California that signed is Brendan Hale from Orange Lutheran High School. Hale stands at 6’0″ and 170 pounds and was a ball hawk cornerback for the Lancers, racking 80 total tackles and one interception. Hale was also named Second-Team All-Trinity League for his work off the field.
These are just a few players from what was an outstanding signing class for SUU to look out for in the coming season. The Thunderbirds filled holes on both sides of the ball and will leave a strong future ahead that should excite all T-Bird fans.
Fitzgerald said it perfectly in his signing day press conference to the public: “These 23 young men are the foundation on which we are going to build a great FCS football program. The Thunderbird football program got longer, stronger and faster today.”
Article by: Seth Whitehouse
Photo Courtesy of SUU Athletics