Utah football: Did Utes get stronger or weaker via the transfer portal?

The chaos in college football, which is the NCAA transfer portal, has settled — at least until May 1st, when players will be able to re-enter the portal.

Now that the dust has settled from that last round of portaling, let’s take a look at how the transfer portal has impacted Utah’s program.

The Utes haven’t had as much activity on the transfer portal compared to many other programs, but there have been some interesting developments.

Utah lost nine players from the transfer portal while gaining four.

Those numbers don’t include the resignation of Micah Bernard, who has spent less than a month on the transfer portal. According to reports, Bernard appears to be returning to the Utes.

Of those leaving Utah, the biggest loss is center Paul Maile, who moved to BYU. Aside from Maile, the Utes haven’t lost much in terms of performance and experience on the field.

However, the Utes said goodbye to some players who seemed to have potential — four-star recruit Ricky Parks, a running back; and linebackers Mason Tufaga and Ethan Calvert.

The additions included linebacker Levani Damuni (Stanford), edge rusher Logan Fano (BYU), cornerback Miles Battle (Ole Miss), and placekicker Cole Becker (Colorado). But any of them could have a big impact on Utah in 2023.

Overall, the transfer portal has been a positive for the Utes as back-to-back Pac-12 champions have done slightly better, particularly on defensive and special teams.

In a recent interview with The Athletic, coach Kyle Whittingham was asked what kind of players he and his staff are looking for on the transfer portal.

“We treat boys in the portal the same way we treat high school boys. We want people with a work ethic and a team first mentality. Of course you also have to have the physical tools, but we need someone who fits our culture,” he said. “It’s important that we keep that up, but it’s getting harder and harder with all the transitions.

“There’s more turnover in your team every year and I think that’s going to be an increasing challenge going forward to keep your culture intact with all the new players and faces coming into the program every year.”

Utah opens spring training on March 21. The spring game is scheduled for April 22nd.

Here’s a look at what Utah gained and lost through the transfer portal.

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With Maile’s departure, Utah loses a center who has played in 28 games, including 15 starts under his belt.

However, the Utes have a couple of centers with experience in the program – Johnny Maea and Kolinu’u Faaiu.

Utah Utes offensive lineman Paul Maile (54) and Utah Utes quarterback Cameron Rising (7) celebrate a touchdown.

Utah offensive lineman Paul Maile (left) and quarterback Cam Rising celebrate a Rising touchdown on Saturday, October 15, 2022 while Utah and USC play at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City. Maile will be running for BYU next fall.

Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News

When Maile was injured against Stanford, Maea also picked up an injury. Her replacement was Faaiu, who performed well.

“In the middle (Faaiu) came in and didn’t miss a beat. He did exceptionally well,” Whittingham said at the time. “He answered the bell and was ready to play. … Very proud of Koli and what he has done for his first experience as a Power Five footballer and first game experience of any magnitude.”

Micah Bernard’s return

The Utes must be feeling a lot better about their running back depth with Bernard’s return. He is Utah’s leading returning rusher with 106 carries for 533 yards and four touchdowns. The versatile Bernard also caught 34 passes for 314 yards and a TD.

Ja’Quinden Jackson (78 carries, 531 yards, nine touchdowns) and Jaylon Glover (34 carries, 314 yards, four touchdowns), along with Bernard, bring the Utes depth and experience to the position, although Tavion Thomas continues.

Levani Damuni

After linebacker Mohamoud Diabate was drafted for the NFL draft, Utah needed more experience in the position.

Damuni, who played four seasons at Stanford, fills that need. Damuni, who prepared at Ridgeline High, is returning to his home state after starting for the Cardinal in his sophomore season.

Last year, Damuni captained the team and recorded 76 tackles, two forced fumbles, two pass deflections, a sack and an interception. He’s a college graduate, which means he’s still eligible for a year.

In 2022, Gabe Reid made a graduating transfer from Stanford to Utah, and Reid made a key contribution to Utes’ defense.

Logan Fano

While Utah lost starting center Maile to BYU, the Utes won an edge rusher from the Cougars – Fano.

The four-star Timpview High recruit decided to follow his younger brother Spencer Fano to Utah a day after Spencer announced his involvement with the Utes.

Logan wrote in a Twitter post at the time: “Thankfully this wasn’t the last time I got to play with my brother. Let’s go to work! Go, Utes!”

Fano has never played a game at BYU because he sustained an ACL injury last spring. But he was a key signee in the Cougars’ 2021 recruiting class after signing for BYU in lieu of offers from Michigan, Wisconsin, Arizona, Arizona State, Utah State, Oregon State, Washington State, Nebraska, Colorado, according to 247 Sports and Virginia decided.


Utah All-America cornerback Clark Phillips III has been drafted for the NFL draft, but cornerbacks coach Sharrieff Shah dove into the transfer portal and brought on board a veteran cornerback from the Southeastern Conference.

Battle, a 6-foot-4, 205-pounder from Houston, recorded 22 tackles, four demolished passes, one interception and one forced fumble at Ole Miss last season.

Shah is optimistic about what Battle can offer the Utes’ defensive secondary.

“How can you expect a child to be good? You can not. I can say, ‘This child has a foundation that can be molded into something beautiful.’ His intelligence and the reps he got at Ole Miss make him very productive,” he said. “In his bowl game, he had a game similar to Clark’s. What a beautiful omen. There are so many things he brings to the table. It’s another quality piece that helps us do what we want to do again.”

Kohl Becker

One area of ​​inconsistency last season for Utah was kicking play.

Sharing field kick duties, Jordan Noyes and Jadon Redding jointly hit 10 of 14 field goals with a 45 long. They combined scored 72 of 73 extra points.

When it comes to kickoffs — a source of frustration for Whittingham last season — four kickers combined have recorded touchbacks on just 29% of the Utes’ 99 kickoffs. Four times Utah has been penalized for kickoffs out of bounds.


Colorado Place kicker Cole Becker warms up before a game Saturday, November 5, 2022 in Boulder, Colorado. Becker’s big leg and accuracy earned him a spot on the Utes list via the transfer portal.

David Zalubowski, Associated Press

Redding is no longer part of the program while Noyes has entered the transfer portal.

The Utes found their new placekicker from Pac-12 rival Colorado — Becker, who pitched for Utah just three days after entering the portal.

Becker, who has been the Buffaloes’ kicker for the past two years, has two years left to play.

At Boulder in 2022, Becker hit 11 of 13 field goals, including 49-yard lengths. He drilled 20 out of 21 extra points. In his career, Becker has hit 25 of 33 field goals with a 56 long. He has 45 of 46 extra points.

Meanwhile, Becker recorded touchbacks on 67% of his 94 kickoffs in Colorado. This percentage improved to 73.9% during the 2022 campaign. He only had two kickoffs that went wide.

Utah Losses to Transfer Portal (9)

Cornerback Malone Mataele – Utah State.

Linebacker Ethan Calvert – Cal Poly.

Defensive end Tyler Wegis – Boise State.

Linebacker Mason Tufaga – Oregon State.

Tight End Landon Morris – Undecided.

Running back Ricky Parks – undecided.

Paul Maile Center—BYU.

Linebacker Andrew Mata’afa — tie.

Placekicker Jordan Noyes — Undecided.

Utah’s Additions from Transfer Portal (4)

Linebacker Levani Damuni — Stanford.

Edge rusher Logan Fano – BYU.

Cornerback Miles Battle – Ole Miss.

Placekicker Cole Becker — Colorado.

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