Utah’s Linebacker Room Has New Faces, No Shortage Of Talent
SALT LAKE CITY- Replacing athletes like Devin Lloyd and Nephi Sewell is never easy. However, linebacker coach Colton Swan is confident in his group as spring ball winds down. There are a lot of new, young faces in Utah’s linebacker room, there are also some older faces with fresh opportunities. Though not decided yet who will be the “next man up”, coach Swan is confident he has guys who can handle the load.
Utah lost some greats in the linebacker room with Devin Lloyd & Nephi Sewell departing for the NFL. However, @Colton_Swan is confident in the upcoming talent he has in his group for @Utah_Football. #GoUtes pic.twitter.com/q2gDuZ78Vy
— Michelle Bodkin (@BodkinKSLsports) April 22, 2022
Next Man Up
So far, coach Swan has been really impressed with his freshmen that have come in. Guys like Lander Barton and Justin Medlock have received constant praise for being ahead of the curve this spring.
“Their knowledge of football, they are willing to compete,” Swan said. “They are very savvy players. Now in 14 practices they are picking up on scheme and all the little nuances of technique and things of that nature. They are learning at a very fast rate. Are they there right now? No, they are not, but I’m happy and really pleased with their progress.”
Not everyone is brand new to the linebacker room. Some guys like Andrew Mata’afa, Karene Reid, Josh Calvert and Hayden Furey have been around for some time and have provided the leadership the group needs as they sort out how to move forward from Lloyd and Sewell.
“A little bit of some older crew in there that are doing a good job,” Swan said. “They understand the voice in the room has left in Devin and Nephi and someone has to speak up. Andrew is a very outspoken personality. He’s a great young man and so he’s taken that more vocal type of role where Karene Reid is a bit quieter, but you get a workhorse out of him. They are all competing and doing a great job.”
Coach Swan has a variety of different guys in his room who can do different things. According to Swan, this allows Utah to mix things up and give some different looks.
“You can move them around in our 4-3 package according to body type,” Swan said. “That’s one thing that is nice is to have a tall linebacker like Lander Barton who can come in and move to some different positions and things of that nature. You aren’t pigeon holed as far as position according to body size.”
One guy that coach Swan has not been able to get a full look at yet is Florida transfer Mohamoud Diabate due to recovering from surgery. The few things coach Swan has been able to do with Diabate gives him encouragement as to what he will bring come fall.
“I’ve been very impressed thus far in what he’s showed,” Swan said. “Obviously, he’s very limited in what he can do coming off of that shoulder surgery. Everything is moving good. As far as his progress in rehab, they are allowing him to lift now, putting his arms above his head. Things of that nature. He’s really starting to progress. His strength is impeccable. He’s a really strong kid. You look at him and thinking ‘no way’ because of how skinny he looks, but he is an extremely strong kid. Another thing that I’ve been really impressed with, is sometimes they’ll let him run with us in conditioning-type of drills and he can freakin’ run like a gazelle. I’ve been impressed with how well he can cover the field.”
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