OGDEN — As Jay Hill moved alphabetically through highlights for Weber State’s 2019 football signing class, he reached safety Desmond Williams.
He asked Williams — a former three-star recruit who spent three seasons at Boise State and is already on campus in Ogden — to step out from the side of the room and give a wave to the 100 or so people gathered in a Stewart Stadium meeting area as his highlight reel began.
“Can he play on green turf, though?” a facetious fan inquired.
Williams, one of 17 additions announced to the program Wednesday, is just one example of Weber State’s rising profile after finishing ranked in the top six nationally two seasons in a row.
“Having Jake Constantine here from Boise, Desmond contacted him shortly after putting his name in the transfer portal,” Hill said. “I love what I see out of that kid right now. I think he’s going to be a phenomenal football player. He’s a heck of a competitor and he’s played a lot of high-level football already.”
Williams, a 5-foot-11 athlete, played a hybrid safety/linebacker role at Boise State and will play strong safety for the Wildcats, having two years to play two seasons.
His addition was one of at least 10 for the defensive side of the ball as WSU looks to replace depth lost with seven defensive starters graduating. Williams joins Snow College linebacker Sherwin Lavaka as incoming transfers on the defensive side of the ball.
Then there’s 5-foot-11 Dontae McMillan. The prep player recruited as an “athlete” was committed to Oregon in December but didn’t sign in the early signing period. Now he’s at Weber State.
“He’s a guy that could play safety but I love him as a running back. I think he’s explosive, he’s dynamic,” Hill said about McMillan.
McMillan is one of several signees whose footspeed stands out on film. Athlete Justin Haase, cornerback Jakobe Harris and cornerback Jacob Sharp are among them.
“Coach (Quinton) Ganther did an unbelievable job of getting in the Bay Area. Between Jacob Sharp, Jakobe Harris and Maxwell Anderson, we believe those guys will drastically help our secondary to continue the high play we’ve had there the last three years. They’re fast, athletic, a lot of them played positions on offense.”
Harris spent much of his recruitment hearing from Mountain West schools but stuck with his commitment to Weber State, Hill said.
Haase, Sharp and Dane Leituala, an in-state signee from Taylorsville High, are among players who played multiple positions like quarterback, running back, receiver, linebacker and cornerback in high school. Leituala — a 5-foot-10, 225-pound athlete who was a quarterback at Taylorsville — signed to WSU as a fullback.
In a classic banking-on-potential signing, Tahitian-born Raimoana Tinirauarii inked with WSU out of Juan Diego Catholic High School in Draper, where he played football for the first time. At 6-foot-2, Tinirauarii currently averages 17.6 points and six rebounds per game for Juan Diego’s basketball team. He could play defensive back, receiver, linebacker or defensive end, Hill said.
More locally, the Wildcats inked Weber High defenders Brandt Opheikens and Josh Carter, the latter of which will be a long snapper, and Davis linebacker Alema Max Tupuola. Opheikens shifted from Utah State to Weber State late and Tupuola chose WSU over Navy and Idaho State.
“We always loved Brandt, he was a great player all along,” Hill said. “As soon as we had the availability, we pulled the trigger on it and made it work. He was always a guy high up on our board that, had the opportunity come about, we wanted to sign.”
BY THE NUMBERS
In total, 14 of the 17 additions were high school signees. Junior college running back Daniel Wright Jr. joins Williams and Lavaka as transfers. Wright comes from American River College in Sacramento, California.
By state, signees came from Utah (8), California (5), Idaho (2) and Washington (2) — though Harris is a New Orleans, Lousiana, native whose family relocated to California.
By ratings, according to 247Sports, three players were rated three stars (McMillan, Williams and Idaho linebacker Garrett Beck), five were rated two stars, and nine were not rated (typical for recruiting at the FCS level).
Hill said seven of the 14 high school signees are expected to serve missions for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, though the school usually declines to name them in case those players change their minds.
The program plans to welcome back eight returning missionaries for the 2019 season, headlined by former Fremont High standout Haze Hadley. Also returning are Logan Lutui, Peni Mobley, Davis Rasmussen and Andrew Slack from Utah; and Blake Bartschi, Zeke Birch and Mitchel Maxfield from Idaho.