Utah’s Junior Tafuna On Lombardi Award Watch List

Aug 15, 2023, 4:34 PM

SALT LAKE CITY – Utah defensive tackle Junior Tafuna has been named to the Lombardi Award preseason watch list as of Tuesday afternoon.

Tafuna has already been named to the Outland Trophy and Bronko Nagurski Trophy watch lists along with earning preseason All-Pac-12 and All-America by Athlon Sports and Phil Steele recognitions.

Utah’s defensive linemen is one of 78 players on the preseason watch list which includes 11 total from the Pac-12.

Utah Defensive Lineman Junior Tafuna

Tafuna has been a key player in the 27 games he’s played at Utah so far that also includes 25 consecutive starts.

In Utah football’s second Pac-12 Title run last season in 2022, Tafuna earned All-Pac-12 second team on the year after posting 27 tackles (3.5 TFL, 1.0 sack), an interception, two quarterback hurries and a pass breakup.

In 2021, Tafuna was named the Pac-12 Freshman Defensive Player of the Year after redshirting during the 2020 Covid-19 shortened season. Tafuna recorded a career-high nine tackles in Utah’s win over Arizona in their first Pac-12 Title run, which included 1.5 tackles for loss and a sack.

Tafuna is expected to play a big role plugging up the middle of the field in 2023 for the Utes on a defensive line that should be overall more experienced than his first two seasons. Utah will get off to a quick start on tough schedule hosting the Florida Gators at Rice-Eccles Stadium on Thursday, August 31.

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 XInstagram, and Threads: @BodkinKSLsports

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Utah’s Junior Tafuna On Lombardi Award Watch List