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SDSU Women face Utah in the first round of NCAA Tournament

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SDSU Women face Utah in the first round of NCAA Tournament


BROOKINGS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) – The South Dakota State Women’s Basketball program is in the NCAA Division I Women’s National Championship for the 12th time, and they’re headed west to start their run in the tournament.

The 12-seeded Jackrabbits are pitted against 5-seeded Utah, for what will be the fourth game ever between the two programs. The first and second round games will be held out in Spokane, Washington.

Utah and SDSU last meet in 2009, with the Utes taking the 62-58 win. Utah has won two games between the two, while the Jackrabbits have one win.

The team is getting ready for the road ahead, knowing that each time they make the tournament is special and an opportunity.

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“I think any tournament we go to is special, and I’ve been fortunate to go to a couple. I think as a senior, this one will be really exciting for me and I really just want to enjoy the moment, and I’m excited to do it with this group girls and kind of create some more memories,” SDSU senior forward Tori Nelson said.

“A lot of teams that were called, were called for either the first time ever, or maybe the first time in years. For us to have this be our 12th time is pretty remarkable, and it just never gets old because we understand how hard it is to get to this level, and we’re going to try and make the most of it but also enjoy it at the same time,” SDSU head coach Aaron Johnston said.

The game between the two is slated for Saturday, March 23. Game time is set for 9:00 p.m. CT.



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NFL mock draft roundup: Where experts think Utah, BYU and local players will be selected

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NFL mock draft roundup: Where experts think Utah, BYU and local players will be selected


Last year, nine Utah ties were taken during the 2023 NFL draft.

That included three former Utes, three former Cougars and three others who played high school ball in Utah but played college outside the state.

If national experts are to be believed, there could be a similar number of Utah ties taken in the 2024 NFL draft, which runs Thursday through Saturday in Detroit.

The University of Utah has the highest amount of draftable prospects in this year’s class, while BYU has one likely high draft pick and a couple other potential late-rounders. There are also a couple of former Utah prep stars who are expected to hear their name called.

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Here’s where five recent seven-round mock drafts have predicted for Utah ties to get drafted:

Jackson Powers-Johnson, C, Corner Canyon High

BYU offensive lineman Kingsley Suamataia (78) blocks downfield during game against Cincinnati Friday, Sept. 29, 2023, in Provo, Utah. | Rick Bowmer

Kingsley Suamataia, OT, BYU and Orem High

Utah Utes safety Cole Bishop (8) tackles Weber State Wildcats quarterback Kylan Weisser (11) during game at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Sept. 16, 2023. | Megan Nielsen, Deseret News

Cole Bishop, S, Utah

Utah Utes defensive end Jonah Elliss (83) celebrates a sack against the Florida Gators in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Aug. 31, 2023, during the season opener. Utah won 24-11. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Jonah Elliss, Edge, Utah

Utah offensive lineman Sataoa Laumea (78) in action against Arizona, Saturday, Nov. 18, 2023, in Tucson, Ariz. | Rick Scuteri

Sataoa Laumea, G, Utah

Utah Utes safety Sione Vaki (28) runs the ball against California Golden Bears linebacker Cade Uluave (27) in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Oct. 14, 2023. Utah won 34-14. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Sione Vaki, S, Utah

Colorado State tight end Dallin Holker (5) during game Saturday, Nov. 18, 2023, in Fort Collins, Colo. | David Zalubowski

Dallin Holker, TE, BYU and Lehi High

Brigham Young Cougars punter Ryan Rehkow (24) punts during a game against the Utah State Aggies in Logan on Friday, Oct 1, 2021. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Ryan Rehkow, P, BYU

Utah Utes offensive lineman Keaton Bills (51) celebrates with Utah Utes quarterback Nate Johnson after touchdown against the Florida Gators in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Aug. 31, 2023. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Other Utah ties projected as draft picks

Three other Utah ties received one projection as a draft pick:

  • Keaton Bills, G, Utah and Corner Canyon High: Round 5, No. 165 overall to Baltimore Ravens by Josh Edwards, CBS Sports.
  • Winston Reid, LB, Weber State and Copper Hills High: Round 7, No. 251 overall to San Francisco 49ers by Chad Reuter, NFL.com.
  • Kedon Slovis, QB, BYU: Round 7, No. 255 overall to Green Bay Packers by Chad Reuter, NFL.com.



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Utah leaders gearing up to fight new BLM conservation rule

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Utah leaders gearing up to fight new BLM conservation rule


Kyle Dunphey

(Utah News Dispatch) From members of Utah’s congressional delegation to the state’s governor and attorney general, elected officials in the Beehive State are voicing their opposition to a new rule from the Bureau of Land Management, vowing to fight it in both Congress and the courts.

The BLM last week finalized its “Public Lands Rule,” which allows parcels of public land to be leased for conservation, similar to how the agency currently leases land for mineral extraction, energy development, recreation or grazing.

The rule would allow for a restoration lease, intended for groups or individuals to improve habitats and restore or conserve land — and a mitigation lease, aimed at offsetting existing development and projects on BLM land.

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It was widely celebrated by environmental groups, including the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, which in a statement said the rule will “keep conservation front of mind.”

“For too long, the BLM has allowed extractive industries to have their way with our public lands. That’s led to degraded landscapes across the West and the decline of iconic species, like the greater sage-grouse. This rule gives the BLM the tools it needs to right these wrongs and start improving the health of our public lands,” said Kate Groetzinger, communications manager for the Center for Western Priorities.

But in Utah, Republicans argued the rule would lock up land, excluding traditional uses like grazing or commercial guiding. According to a statement from the Utah Department of Natural Resources, the rule will “negatively impact the 22.8 million acres of BLM land in Utah.”

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox, in a statement last week, said he looked forward to working with Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes to fight the rule in federal court.

“The added layers of red tape and federal bureaucracy embedded in the BLM’s Public Lands Rule create new roadblocks to conservation work. The health of Utah’s lands and wildlife will suffer as a result. This Rule is contrary to the bedrock principle of ‘multiple-use’ in the BLM’s governing law, the Federal Land Policy and Management Act,” Cox said.

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That was the sentiment from Republican Reps. John Curtis, Celeste Maloy and Blake Moore on Monday during a Federal Lands Subcommittee field hearing — part of the House Committee on Natural Resources — in Sand Hollow State Park in Hurricane.

“The rule favors wealthy individuals and environmental groups by creating a new, convoluted leasing system that will allow them to lock up lands that belong to all Utahns,” said Curtis, who recently sponsored a bill that would permanently repeal the Public Lands Rule.

That bill, the Western Economy Security Today Act, passed out of the House Natural Resources Committee but has yet to receive a full vote from lawmakers.

Curtis argued that any new public lands leasing option should come from Congress, not the BLM, or what he called “the will of one person.”

His bill would promote “true conservation,” Curtis said, “rooted in local input rather than preservationist policies handed down by the Biden administration.”

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Moore, who said the rule “doesn’t really solve the problem,” asked Washington County Commissioner Adam Snow whether the policy helps or hinders grazing on public land. Snow called the rule an “absolute hindrance.”

“In this county alone, we have massive amounts of land set aside,” said Snow. “Conservation is important, nothing to take away from that. But, it’s balancing multiple uses, and to elevate the conservation rule to say that conservation is at the same level … that only hinders grazing.”

The Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance on Monday called the hearing “partisan” and “out of touch with local and national support for protecting public lands.”

“Keeping conservation front and center is particularly important in places like Washington County and across Southwest Utah that are seeing both significant growth and the impacts of climate change such as prolonged drought and diminishing water supplies,” said Travis Hammill, the group’s Washington D.C. director.





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What Utah ties could be taken in the 2024 NFL draft?

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What Utah ties could be taken in the 2024 NFL draft?


A good thing may be coming to an end, from a Utah perspective.

For the first time in five years, there may not be a Utah tie who hears their name called during the first round of the NFL draft when the 2024 version kicks off Thursday night in Detroit.

There are no surefire first-rounders among a group of athletes in the 2024 draft class who either played their college or high school ball (or both) in the Beehive State.

That doesn’t mean prospects like offensive linemen Jackson Powers-Johnson or Kingsley Suamataia couldn’t keep the first-round streak going — both have shown up a handful of times as a potential late first-rounder in recent mock drafts.

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Utah ties taken in the NFL draft’s first round, past 10 years

2023 

No. 25 — Dalton Kincaid, Utah TE — selected by Buffalo Bills.

2022

No. 27 — Devin Lloyd, Utah LB — selected by Jacksonville Jaguars.

2021

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No. 2 — Zach Wilson, BYU and Corner Canyon High QB — selected by New York Jets.

No. 7 — Penei Sewell, Desert Hills High OT — selected by Detroit Lions.

2020

No. 26 — Jordan Love, Utah State QB — selected by Green Bay Packers.

2019

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No Utah ties selected in the first round.

2018

No Utah ties selected in the first round.

2017

No. 20 — Garett Bolles, Utah, Snow College and Westlake High OT — selected by Denver Broncos.

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2016

No Utah ties selected in the first round.

2015

No Utah ties selected in the first round.

2014

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No Utah ties selected in the first round.

Over the past four years, five Utah ties have been selected during the NFL draft’s first round.

By comparison, in the 20 years before the 2020 draft, there were only seven Utah ties taken during the draft’s first round — headlined by former Utah quarterback Alex Smith going No. 1 overall to the San Francisco 49ers in 2005.

The last time the state of Utah had this long of a streak of first-round draft picks came from 1998 to 2000, when a pair of Cougars and a Ute all went in the draft’s opening round in three straight years.

Historically speaking, this year’s draft class — at least from a Utah perspective — is shaping up to be like the 2019 draft, when no Utah ties went in the first round, a handful of others heard their names during the second and third rounds on Day 2, and then several other locals were picked on the draft’s final day.

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How will this year’s class turn out? Will there be more breakout players like Puka Nacua, Dalton Kincaid, Fred Warner or Penei Sewell, or more draft busts like Zach Wilson?

The first round of the 2024 NFL draft takes place Thursday (6 p.m. MDT), Rounds 2-3 on Friday (5 p.m.) and Rounds 4-7 on Saturday (10 a.m.), with coverage on ABC, ESPN, ESPN Deportes and NFL Network.

These are nine names to keep in mind from a Utah perspective as this year’s draft unfolds in Detroit.

Jackson Powers-Johnson, center

Utah tie: Corner Canyon High.

Powers-Johnson was a four-star prospect in the 2021 recruiting class, and over the past three seasons at Oregon, he lived up to that hype.

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During the 2023 season, Powers-Johnson won the Rimington Trophy, given to the nation’s top collegiate center, and was a consensus All-American. The 6-foot-3, 328-pound Powers-Johnson didn’t allow a sack and gave up one QB hit and three QB hurries in 758 pass-block snaps over three years at Oregon, according to Yahoo Sports’ Doug Farrar.

Where he ranks among 2024 center prospects: The Athletic, No. 2; ESPN, No. 2; NFL.com, No. 2.

Scouting report: “Powers-Johnson is a fierce competitor with a salty disposition but needs to improve his first-phase technique to create more consistent block sustains,” said NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein. “Despite average athleticism, he doesn’t seem to have many issues in pass protection, as he works with clear eyes, a wide base and good discipline to keep his weight back.”

NFL.com draft projection: Rounds 1-2.

BYU offensive lineman Kingsley Suamataia (78) takes the field during the first half of an NCAA college football game against TCU, Saturday, Oct. 14, 2023, in Fort Worth, Texas. | LM Otero, Associated Press

Kingsley Suamataia, offensive tackle

Utah ties: BYU and Orem High.

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There’s less of a consensus on where Suamataia, who was Powers-Johnson’s teammate at Oregon for one season before transferring to BYU in 2022, ranks among the top offensive tackle prospects in this year’s class.

Given that offensive tackles are highly valued in the draft, though, the 6-foot-5, 326-pound Suamataia is seen as a Day 2 prospect by most prognosticators. This comes after he started 22 games over the past two seasons for BYU — 12 at right tackle and 10 at left tackle — and left Provo having given up just two sacks in his college career, according to Pro Football Focus.

Where he ranks among 2024 offensive tackle prospects: The Athletic, No. 7; ESPN, No. 9; NFL.com, No. 15.

Scouting report: “Suamataia is a dream Day 2 prospect for a team to draft and develop,” said Pro Football Focus’s Trevor Sikkema. “I worry about him being baptized by fire if he is drafted in the first round and called upon to start right away.”

NFL.com draft projection: Rounds 2-3.

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Utah safety Cole Bishop (8) motions to the crowd during an NCAA football game on Thursday, Aug. 31, 2023, in Salt Lake City, Utah. | Tyler Tate, Associated Press

Cole Bishop, safety

Utah tie: Utah.

Bishop is the latest in a long line of successful safeties to come out of the Utes program who looks capable of making a big impact at the pro level.

The 6-foot-2, 206-pounder is being projected as a Day 2 prospect after a three-year run at Utah where he earned All-Pac-12 honors every year and ended his time in Salt Lake City with 197 career tackles, 21.5 tackles for loss, 7.5 sacks, 14 pass deflections, four fumble recoveries and three interceptions.

Where he ranks among 2024 safety prospects: The Athletic, No. 4; ESPN, No. 3; NFL.com, No. 5.

Scouting report: “Bishop is an interchangeable and versatile safety with good size and speed,” said ESPN’s Steve Muench. “He closes well and limits production after the catch when breaking on passes. He can turn and run with tight ends and bigger receivers, too.”

NFL.com draft projection: Round 3.

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Utah Utes defensive end Jonah Elliss (83) celebrates a sack against UCLA in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Sept. 23, 2023. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Jonah Elliss, edge rusher

Utah tie: Utah.

Elliss had a breakout season in 2023 that thrust him into the NFL prospect conversation as a slimmer edge rusher (at 248 pounds) with plenty of upside.

After two seasons at Utah, where the son of former NFL standout Luther Elliss had just four sacks, Jonah Elliss posted 12 sacks during his junior year, to go along with 37 total tackles and 16 tackles for loss. The 6-foot-2 consensus All-American could have done more, too, if injury didn’t limit him to 10 games played.

Where he ranks among 2024 edge rusher prospects: The Athletic, No. 11; ESPN, No. 9; NFL.com, No. 15.

Scouting report: “Elliss is an inconsistent edge setter in the run game, but he is threatening with his upfield burst/motor and skilled with his hands in the pass rush,” said The Athletic’s Dane Brugler. “It is encouraging to think of what he can develop into with a full bag of counters.”

NFL.com draft projection: Rounds 3-4.

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Utah offensive lineman Sataoa Laumea (78) sets up to block in front of Florida defensive lineman Tyreak Sapp (94) during the second half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 3, 2022, in Gainesville, Fla. | Phelan M. Ebenhack, Associated Press

Sataoa Laumea, guard

Utah tie: Utah.

Laumea entered the Utes program as a four-star prospect in 2019 and lived up to the hype that comes with being such a high-rated talent.

Now, the four-time All-Pac-12 honoree will get the chance to show off his versatility in the NFL. The 6-foot-4, 319-pound Laumea started 44 consecutive games for the Utes — 19 at right guard and 25 at right tackle — and is seen as more of an interior lineman at the next level.

Where he ranks among 2024 guard prospects: The Athletic, No. 9; ESPN, No. 3; NFL.com, No. 6.

Scouting report: “Laumea is a very competent drive blocker and possesses adequate agility and athleticism to get to lateral landmarks on the move,” said NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein. “He can get from block to block as a climber and is generally conscientious of his footwork to bolster his success on positional blocks.”

NFL.com draft projection: Round 4.

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Utah Utes safety Sione Vaki (28) intercepts the ball against the Florida Gators in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Aug. 31, 2023, during the season opener. Utah won 24-11. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Sione Vaki, safety

Utah tie: Utah.

After a freshman season in 2022 where Vaki showed off his potential, his versatility was on display as a two-way star for the Utes last season.

The 5-foot-11, 210-pound Vaki not only was a standout safety, where he had 51 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss and two sacks, he also totaled more than 500 yards of total offense and five touchdowns as a running back. That versatility could pay dividends in the NFL.

Where he ranks among 2024 safety prospects: The Athletic, No. 18; ESPN, No. 20; NFL.com, No. 26.

Scouting report: “Vaki’s versatility is his greatest strength. He plays high, in the box and over the slot on defense,” said ESPN’s Steve Muench. “He also played some running back in 2023 and rushed for 158 yards against Cal. He has the experience and traits to make early contributions on special teams.”

NFL.com draft projection: Round 6.

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BYU punter Ryan Rehkow (24) punts the ball in the first half of an NCAA college football game against San Diego State, Saturday, Dec. 12, 2020, in Provo, Utah. | George Frey, Associated Press

Ryan Rehkow, punter

Utah tie: BYU.

Is BYU’s second-best draft prospect this year really a special teamer? Yes sir, and if more than one punter goes in the 2024 draft, he’s likely to be drafted.

Rehkow was a four-year standout for the Cougars and is primed to become the first BYU punter to stick around the NFL since Lee Johnson spent nearly 20 years in the league. The 6-foot-4, 235-pound Rehkow averaged 48.4 yards per punt on a career-high 68 punts during the 2023 season, though he had a career-low 36.8% inside the 20.

Where he ranks among 2024 punter prospects: The Athletic, No. 2; ESPN, No. 2; NFL.com, No. 2.

Scouting report: “Big punter with an effortless strike that sends the ball flying down the field. Rehkow is a four-year punter whose leg strength has never been in question,” said NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein. “He hits punts far but with a lower trajectory, leading to a higher number of returns and a lower net average than teams might like.”

NFL.com draft projection: Round 6.

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Utah offensive lineman Keaton Bills (51) in the first half of an NCAA college football game against Arizona, Saturday, Nov. 18, 2023, in Tucson, Ariz. | Rick Scuteri, Associated Press

Keaton Bills, guard

Utah tie: Utah and Corner Canyon High.

There are a lot of former Chargers making it to the NFL, and Bills looked primed to be another Corner Canyon product who’s got what it takes to stick in the pros.

The 6-foot-4, 321-pound Bills played in 45 career games for the Utes and started 36 of them, all at left guard. He twice made the All-Pac-12 honorable mention list and projects as a late-round talent who adds depth at the next level.

Where he ranks among 2024 guard prospects: The Athletic, No. 20; ESPN, No. 13; NFL.com, No. 16.

Scouting report: “Bills is a subpar athlete and won’t stand out with his movement skills, but he works well enough in short areas with the heavy hands and toughness to wear down defenders,” said The Athletic’s Dane Brugler. “Although his ceiling might not be very high in the NFL, he offers a functional skill set that can provide immediate interior depth.”

NFL.com draft projection: Round 6.

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Colorado State tight end Dallin Holker (5) in the second half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Oct. 14, 2023, in Fort Collins, Colo. | David Zalubowski

Dallin Holker, tight end

Utah tie: BYU and Lehi High.

Holker was a household name in football circles during his time at Lehi and BYU, but his pro prospects really took off after he left the state.

The 6-foot-3, 241-pound Holker excelled during his lone season at Colorado State, posting career highs with 64 receptions for 767 yards and six touchdowns, eclipsing the numbers he had put up in three years at BYU. He was a John Mackey Award finalist and earned multiple second-team All-American citations.

Where he ranks among 2024 tight end prospects: The Athletic, No. 12; ESPN, No. 12; NFL.com, No. 9.

Scouting report: “Holker is a well-rounded, versatile tight end who can be a good depth piece to play in multi-tight end offenses, but he likely lacks the top-tier athleticism to be a TE1,” said Pro Football Focus’s Trevor Sikkema.

NFL.com draft projection: Round 6.

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BYU Cougars quarterback Kedon Slovis (10) warms up before the game against the Sam Houston State Bearkats at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday, Sept. 2, 2023. | Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

Five other Utah names to watch for

Kedon Slovis (BYU quarterback) is seen by some as a potential late-round selection despite his lone season in Provo getting cut short due to injury.

Devaughn Vele (Utah wide receiver), who stands 6-foot-5, averaged a career-best 59.5 receiving yards per game in his final season with the Utes.

Thomas Yassmin (Utah tight end) flashed potential to be a pro-caliber tight end while sharing time with Dalton Kincaid and Brant Kuithe at the position at Utah.

Winston Reid (Weber State and Copper Hills High linebacker) started his college career as a walk-on but was a two-time All-American once it was over.

Miles Battle (Utah cornerback) has the height (6-foot-4) and the speed (4.37 in the 40) to make for an intriguing flier selection in the later rounds or as a priority free agent.



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