Deep Dive Into Utah Football’s New Additions To 2021 Roster

May 22, 2021, 3:15 PM
Tavion Thomas, Brandon McKinney, Theo Howard and Josh Calvert...
(Photos courtesy of Getty Images)
(Photos courtesy of Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – It’s been a busy week for Utah football as they landed a ton of new and talented players to their program ahead of the 2021 season.

In the last week alone, Utah landed three transfers, all from Power-5 programs and since May 8, they have picked up four players from the portal, two on offense and two on defense.

Here is a recap of all of the players Utah picked up in the month of May.

Tavion Thomas, RB

Tavion Thomas comes to Utah after spending one season at Independence Community College in Kansas. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Pirates are still in the middle of their season. Thomas led ICC in rushing attempts, yards and touchdowns as they are 4-2 on the year with one game left in the season against Coffeyville Community College on Sunday, May 23. The Dayton, Ohio native announced his decision via Twitter on Saturday, May 8.

“Would like to announce that I will be committing to the University of Utah,” Thomas tweeted. “It’s been a long time coming, just wanna thank the men above and the ones who have supported me.”

In their 31-24 win over Butler Community College in their season opener, Thomas rushed for 196 yards (10.9 yards per carry) on 18 attempts for 3 touchdowns. When they beat Fort Scott CC 84-0, he ran the ball five times for 54 yards and a TD.

ICC suffered their first loss of the season to Garden City Community College, 14-10. Thomas rushed for 62 yards and one score. He didn’t play in their 68-10 win over Highland Community College.

The following week against Hutchinson, Thomas ran for 35 yards on 12 carries. The Pirates have two games left, both on the road against Dodge City Community College on May 9 and Coffeyville Community College.

In their most previous game against Dodge City Community College, Thomas had one catch for 87 yards.

Independence has been featured for two seasons on the Netflix series “Last Chance U.” Thomas will compete for reps with the Utes that feature Micah Bernard, Oklahoma transfer T.J. Pledger, LSU transfer Chris Curry and 2021 signee Ricky Parks.

Thomas has Division I experience, playing for Cincinnati. Coming out of junior college, Thomas received offers from Akron, UAB, Eastern Kentucky, South Alabama and Utah.

The 6’3 RB spent two seasons with the Bearcats from 2018-19, racking up 689 yards and 7 touchdowns in 14 games played.

Brandon McKinney, S

Brandon McKinney joins the Utah football team after four seasons with Washington from 2017-20.

The Orange, California native announced his decision via Instagram on Wednesday, May19.

Brandon McKinney IG Screenshot

(Photo courtesy of Brandon McKinney’s IG)

During the 2020 season, McKinney played in four games, recording four tackles. In 2019, he played in all 13 games, racking up seven tackles, a forced fumble and a pass breakup. As a sophomore in 2018, McKinney played in all 14 games while starting in the Rose Bowl. He had 17 tackles and one tackle for loss that season. During his freshman season, McKinney played in all 13 games, posting 12 tackles.

McKinney brings veteran experience to a young position group. Vonte Davis is another veteran as he is entering his super senior season. Nate Ritchie finished his freshman year in 2020 but is leaving for a two-year church mission. R.J. Hubert is another option at safety but he has been slowly recovering from a season-ending knee injury that he suffered in the 2019 Pac-12 Championship game.

Theo Howard, WR

After one season with Oklahoma, Theo Howard will join the Utah football program and will provide much needed depth at the position.

Utah football on Twitter announced the addition of Howard to the team on Thursday, May 20.

In one season at Oklahoma in 2020, Howard played in 10 games while hauling in 13 receptions for 163 yards. The Westlake Village, California native will return to the Pac-12 where he spent his first four seasons at UCLA. While with the Bruins, Howard had 119 catches for 1,359 yards and nine touchdowns.

Howard brings much-needed experience and depth at the wide receiver position. He will be an immediate impact player. Kyle Whittingham mentioned during spring camp that the Utes needed to get at least one but maybe two wide receivers in the transfer portal. Utah’s current wide receivers include Britain Covey, Solomon Enis and Devaughn Vele.

During spring ball, Whittingham moved cornerback Caine Savage and safety Ben Renfro over to wide receiver but it was unknown if it would be a permanent move.

Howard will reunite with his Oklahoma teammate in running back T.J. Pledger.

Josh Calvert, LB

After two seasons with Washington, Josh Calvert decided to enter the portal and join the Utah Utes. The Oak Park, California native announced his decision via Twitter on Thursday, May 20.

“Next step in the journey,” Calvert tweeted.

Josh has a younger brother, Ethan that signed with the Utes in the 2021 recruiting class as a four-star prospect at the linebacker position. The former Washington LB missed the 2019 season due to an injury he suffered in fall camp. During the 2020 season, Calvert did not see any game action.

The linebacker room is stacked at Utah with one of the best in the country at the position in Devin Lloyd. They also have Nephi Sewell, Ethan Calvert, Trey Reynolds, Mason Tufaga. Also, Hayden Furey, Jonah Elliss, Moroni Anae and Andrew Mata’afa round out the position group.

Kyle Whittingham, Morgan Scalley and Colton Swan look to have the linebacker position full of talent for years to come.

Trevor Allen is a Utah Utes Insider for KSLSports.com and host of the Crimson Corner podcast. Follow him on Twitter: @TrevorASportsYou can download and listen to the podcast, here.

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Deep Dive Into Utah Football’s New Additions To 2021 Roster