With Brian Blechen moving up from safety to linebacker this season, the loss of Chad Manis should prove to be minimal for the Ute defense as they should have one one of the best and deepest linebacking groups in the conference, and proved it in the spring.
Blechen is an All Conference type of player who is being touted as a possible All American by the Utes. As expected, he was the star of the linebacking corp in the spring, having bulked up a bit without losing a step and still showing a knack for making big plays while bringing a fierce hitting attitude to the field.
Chaz Walker is Mr. Reliable. Always in the right place at the right time. The leading tackler for 2010 was at it again the spring making play after play. He's not going to stand out on any highlight reals, but Walker is the Utes most consistent defender.
Matt Martinez has turned into a scary player. He throws his body around as much as any defender on the team and has a knack for coming up with interceptions (had quite a few in spring ball). Martinez was all over the field in the spring and followed up his solid 2010 season. Don't be surprised when if he leads the team in tackles in 2011.
Trevor Reilly struggled some at the beginning of camp as he made the adjustment from rush end to linebacker. His biggest issues were dropping into coverage as he committed pass interference penalties and holding penalties, but made huge strides towards the end of camp. Reilly will still be used to rush the passer in certain packages, but with his height, could turn into a more athletic Chad Manis.
Jacoby Hale looked very good in spring ball and is definitely going to make an impact. Had a few youngster mistakes in the spring, but was overall impressive. He's very athletic and heady. Could have the most upside of any of the linebackers.
V.J. Fehoko is failing to live up to the hype so far and has fallen out of the coaches' two deep at the end of camp. He combines some great plays with some bonehead plays that leave you scratching your head. The talent is there, but Fehoko needs to keep from making the silly mistakes that he made in spring ball if he wants to make more of an impact in the fall.
The depth of this unit will only get better when J.J. Williams returns in the fall and incoming freshman Jared Norris (a Brian Blechen clone, but with more athleticism) arrives on campus.
Overall Spring Ball Position Grade: A-
Inside The Utes Depth Chart Coming Out of Spring:
Spring Recap- Linebackers
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