Breaking Down Utah Football’s 2023 Position Groups: Linebacker

Jul 10, 2023, 9:45 AM

SALT LAKE CITY – Fall camp is just under a month away for Utah football and to help refresh our minds for it, we’ll be breaking down each of the Utes’ 2023 position groups.

Every week till “Camp Kyle” kicks off, look for one offensive and one defensive position group per week. Today we continue on with yet another position group that has enjoyed a lot of recent success in recruiting, on the field of play, and of course putting guys in the NFL. Obviously, we’re talking about the linebackers under position coach Colton Swan.

Last year the group was undeniably talented, but also a tad green as they were without both Nephi Sewell and 2022 NFL Draft first round pick Devin Lloyd who had been the starters for a few years. After working out some of the bugs, the linebackers settled into a groove in 2022 that largely featured freshman Lander Barton and Sophomore Karene Reid. Florida transfer Mohamoud Diabate also became a large part of the Utes’ success in the front seven but will be earning a paycheck in the NFL this season.


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Who Is Returning At Linebacker For Utah?

Position coach Colton Swan will be entering his fifth season with the Utes and is just another example of the steady coaching Utah gets from top to bottom. Swan has been pretty great out of the gates for Utah but seems to have really hit his stride the past two or so seasons both on the recruiting trail and getting the most out of his guys every Saturday on the field.

As has been mentioned in just about every one of these position breakdown pieces, one of the keys to Utah’s success over the past few years has been making good hires and keeping them for more than a year or two. Continuity in the staff year in and year out has been huge for Utah and could once again be a major player as the Utes hope to be the first Pac-12 football team to three-peat as conference champions.

A Closer Look At The Linebacker Returners

*Bolded names indicate significant experience.

  • Lander Barton, Sophomore, appeared in all 14 games with three starts in 2022, eight games with four-plus tackles, including a career-best six in the Pac-12 Championship, Pac-12 Freshman Defensive Player of the Year.
  • Josh Calvert, Junior, saw game action once last season during the win over San Diego State.
  • Spencer Clegg, Redshirt Freshman, saw no game action in 2022.
  • Hayden Furey, Senior, appeared in 13 games both at linebacker and on special teams in 2022, played in all 14 games in 2021 with four starts, recorded 13 tackles (2.0 TFL) and two pass breakups.
  • Justin Medlock, Redshirt Freshman, played in five games in 2022.
  • Karene Reid, Junior, started all 14 games in 2022, led the linebacker room and ranked third on the team with 72 tackles (9.5 TFL, 5.0 sacks), logged one forced fumble, one recovery, an interception, three pass breakups and a QB hurry.
  • Jason Siaosi, Senior, did not see game action in 2022.

Who Is New At Linebacker For The Utes?

The Utes had a historic signing class in 2023 and got two new additions to the linebacker room with one coming through the portal and the other out of high school.

  • Owen Chambliss, Freshman, three-star from Corona, California
  • Levani Damuni, Senior, Stanford transfer, four-star from Millville, Utah

Some Words From Colton Swan About The Utah Linebacker Room.

The future is bright for a starting group that has a little more experience under their belt from the season before in Karene Reid and Lander Barton. Add in immediate impact transfer Levani Damuni, the steady progression of Justin Medlock, and a proven commodity in Hayden Furey and the linebackers look as good as ever for the Utes in 2023.

“I’ve been blessed with good players and usually when you have good players, that makes you a good coach,” Swan said. “One thing I always have to keep in mind is making good players even better. That’s my coaching style, that’s my strategy. You take a guy like Devin Lloyd, Francis Bernard, Nephi Sewell- you take guys like that, Mohamoud Diabate- very talented players. How can I make them better? I’ve been fortunate with a lot of really good players and finding little ways to fine-tune their skill set.”

Michelle Bodkin is the Utah Utes Insider for KSLsports.com and host of both the Crimson Corner Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and The Saturday Show (Saturday from 10 a.m.–12 p.m.) on The KSL Sports Zone. Follow her on Twitter, Instagram, and Threads: @BodkinKSLsports

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Breaking Down Utah Football’s 2023 Position Groups: Linebacker