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How The Utah Linebackers Are Performing Through Spring Football

Utah Utes linebackers during spring football practice. (Photo courtesy of Utah Athletics)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – One of the deepest positions on defense other than the defensive line that has a ton of depth for Utah is the linebackers.

While the entire defense is full of talent, the depth of young and talented linebackers is exciting to see at Utah. Devin Lloyd decided to come back for one more season rather than enter the NFL Draft. Along with the emergence of Nephi Sewell from a productive 2020 season. On top of that, Utah linebacker coach Colton Swan had a tremendous recruiting class, signing three talented freshmen in Ethan Calvert, Mason Tufaga and Trey Reynolds.

That provides a ton of competition for the defense as many guys are competing for basically one spot on the field since Devin Lloyd has captured one linebacker spot and the Utes mainly play a 4-2-5 defense with just two linebackers.

Utah Linebacker Devin Lloyd Returning For One More Season

On January 9, Devin Lloyd decided to return to Utah and put his future NFL career on hold for one more season. He wanted to come back for one more season to “win a ring.” It was a great feeling for Colton Swan when Lloyd decided to return for one more season.

“It was Christmas morning right there,” Swan said. “My reaction was pretty excited. As everybody knows he’s a phenomenal player, phenomenal young man and what a blessing. Very excited to have him back, the opportunity to work with him for one more year, perfecting his craft. We’re always sharpening that axe,  meaning we’re always preparing, meaning we’re always working to get better. He’s a huge component of that. So yeah, Christmas morning for sure.”

Lloyd will certainly work his way up the draft boards with a strong 2021 season.

Young Freshmen In the LB Room

Mason Tufaga and Trey Reynolds are enrolled at the University of Utah and are participating in spring football. Highly touted recruit Ethan Calvert will enroll during the summer and join the team for fall camp. Swan has been pleased with Tufaga and Reynolds through 10 spring football practices.

“Awesome, 10 practices in thus far and really grabbing the bull by the horns,” Swan stated. “They’re doing a great job, they come to work and work hard every day. They’ve got a really good foundation coming into it already. Very good mindset. A foundation of hard work has already been built. They love spending time  in the video room, wearing those projectors out. Great attitudes. Very tenacious kids, very physical. Love everything about them that I’m seeing thus far.”

Meanwhile, Calvert has not joined the team yet, he has high expectations of playing right away as a true freshman. Swan understands the expectations but like everyone else, Calvert will have to earn his spot.

“Ethan’s a special player,” Swan mentioned. “He’s had a great high school career. He’s very highly touted across the country as linebacker play in his recruiting process. The expectations are high. But in this program and with me, nothing’s ever is given, it’s always earned. So the expectations for him to come in and work hard, just like everybody else and earn that spot, if it’s going to be on the field, you got to earn it. You know, but my expectations are high. I’ve got to do a good job in coaching him and putting him in position. But I want him to come in and earn it and work for it, which I know he will. That’s his mentality and who he is.”

The Progression Of Nephi Sewell

Everything that Nephi Sewell has worked for, he has earned. He joined Utah in 2019 as a transfer from Nevada. When he arrived on campus, he was a walk-on before earning a scholarship during fall camp of 2019. During the 2020 COVID season, Sewell moved from safety to linebacker and started all five games. He was named Pac-12 All-Conference honorable mention after finishing second on the team in tackles with 40, along with six tackles for loss, one forced fumble, two fumble recoveries, two interceptions and two pass breakups. In the season opener against USC, Sewell recovered a fumble and took it to the end zone for a touchdown. Swan gave Sewell high praise for his ability on the football field.

“Man, what a great young man,” said Swan. “He is a phenomenal individual. He has an uncanny ability to get to the football. It’s something like I’ve never seen, he really understands offense. He really understands defense and he puts himself in great positions to make plays. He’s very productive as you guys know. He’s not the biggest man in stature but he does pack a powerful punch. He is physical and probably his best attribute is just how he can find ways to get to the football. Just got an unbelievable knack for the football.”

When asked about what led to his productive season, Sewell gave all the credit to his teammates and coaches.

“I got to give credit to our D lineman, they take on a lot of blocks for me and Devin (Lloyd). Then shoutout to coach Swan for coaching me throughout the COVID season last year. It wasn’t easy for everyone. I am glad that I got to move to linebacker and I’m glad that I have such a good coach in coach Swan. Also, thanks, coach Scalley, for scheming, to put us in the right places, everyone in the right places throughout each week.”

It will be exciting to see how the linebacker room rounds into form going into the 2021 season.

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