Crimson Corner: Five Young Utah Football Players Most Excited To Watch In 2021

Jul 15, 2021, 3:03 PM | Updated: 3:31 pm
Xavier Carlton, Clark Phillips and Mason Tufaga - Utah Utes...
(Photos courtesy of Getty Images and Utah Athletics)
(Photos courtesy of Getty Images and Utah Athletics)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Utah football is filled with young players that have a lot of talent and will contribute this season for the Utes, which begins on Sept. 2.

This list is full of defensive players because that is where the youth is for Utah after losing most of their talent after the 2019 season.

All of these players that are listed below benefited greatly from the 2020 season. They were able to play five games in the Pac-12 without their using any of their college eligibility due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Here are five (six) Utah players that the Crimson Corner is most excited to watch in 2021. These players are either in their first or second season with the Utes.

Kamo’i Latu, Safety

Watching Latu’s film coming out of high school gave me excitement to see what he can do in college. He has a great nose for the ball and is a really hard hitter. Some might say he has similarities to Marquise Blair. If that’s the case, he is going to be special.

Latu played in all five games of the 2020 season at special teams, picking up four tackles.

Clark Phillips III, Cornerback

Entering the program in 2020, Clark Phillips III had high expectations before he even stepped on campus. With the free year in 2020, he stepped right in and took his lumps. As the shortened season progressed, so did his game. You probably can’t ask for a better ending to a season than a pick-six to seal a major comeback win. A lot of people have stated that he is the next Jaylon Johnson. He has the athletic ability and the football IQ to be a really special player for the Utes.

Phillips started at right cornerback in all five games last season, finishing with 25 tackles, two tackles for loss, a fumble recovery, two pass breakups and an interception that was returned for a touchdown. That kept Utah’s streak of 17 straight seasons of at least one pick-six alive.

Xavier Carlton and Van Fillinger, Defensive Ends

To me, these two are a packaged deal. They are the future at defensive end for Utah football. The future is setting up nicely for Carlton and Fillinger. When Maxs Tupai and Mika Tafua move on, it will be their time to shine.

Carlton played in four games last season and picked up a solo tackle against USC in the season opener. Fillinger played in all five games in 2020 and had three tackles with two coming against USC.

Mason Tufaga, Linebacker

Tufaga has a great build for a linebacker. At 6’2 and 220 lbs., Tufaga has the ability to make plays right away for the Utes. The weight helps with the power and being able to deliver hard hits. His height will help him make plays through the air and defend receivers and tight ends.

I know many of you will ask why Ethan Calvert isn’t on this list but since he didn’t participate in spring ball and I was able to watch Tufaga, that’s why I am excited to see what Tufaga can do.

Jaren Kump, Offensive Lineman

It was an impressive and eye-opening first season for Jaren Kump. The 6’5, 305 lbs. lineman from Herriman High School not only shook off the rust from his mission but he got into football shape really quick and hit the ground running. Having five games under his belt is critical for his success and will be a mainstay along the o-line for the next four years.

Kump started all five games during the 2020 season at right tackle.

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.

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