Survey 100 Ute fans and ask what the team's biggest weakness was on defense last year and probably 90 would give you the same answer: the linebackers. Utah suffered from poor decision-making and lack of speed and as a result was constantly beat in the pass game at the LB position. This season Utah is hoping that experience, health, and a key move will help bolster the position group.
Jared Norris (So)
Jared Norris was a high-level performer last spring and earned himself a lot of playing time early last year. Unfortunately a mistake in the Utah State game cost him his starting spot and he never really found the field consistently again after that. He looked good this spring and got a lot of reps. He'll likely be a regular contributor this fall.
L.T. Filiaga (RS So)
LT returned from an LDS mission last year in time to participate in spring ball. He came back in shape and was flying around the field delivering big hits and surprising just about everybody. Filiaga saw time on the field sporadically but showed he can play the run very well and punish those who cross his path. He was a top performer this spring and will likely be in the 2-deep when the season starts.
V.J. Fehoko (Jr)
VJ was a big-time prospect coming out of high school, but so far his career has been a little hit-and-miss. VJ dominated the middle-linebacker position this spring and will most-likely be the starter heading into the season at that spot. He is a strong, athletic linebacker who has a work ethic unlike any other. This year he hopes to turn his off-season training into on-field success.
Brian Blechen (Sr)
It seems like just yesterday Brian Blechen was intercepting Pittsburgh in overtime to seal Utah's season-opening victory over a ranked foe. It's hard to believe three years have passed and we're now entering the senior season of the one-time freshman all-american. Blechen's career has been an interesting one. He never had a definitive position on defense switching multiple times between safety and linebacker and he never quite lived up to the hype and potential we all saw during his freshman year. This season Blechen will have one last chance to show what he can do before he rides off into the sunset.
Reshawn Hooker (So)
Reshawn Hooker was just beginning to see time as a starter last season before injury put him out of commission. He's an athletic, instinctive player who should do well this year if he can stay healthy. We didn't see a lot of him this spring but the coaches have a pretty good idea of what he can do. I expect him to be a starter when fall camp opens up and will likely hold on to that spot when August 29th rolls around.
Uaea Masina (Fr)
Masina is a smart, athletic linebacker who possesses much of what Utah needs at the position. He can run and he covers receivers well in space. He arrived on campus early and participated in spring practices, but he's still young and needs some polishing. Though he won't see the field much this year, he has a bright future ahead of him.
Jacoby Hale (Jr)
Hale is one of the most athletic linebackers on the team and brings 4.55 speed. A part-time starter last season, he'll make a strong push, not only for playing time, but for a starting spot.
Travis Still (So)
Still is another young player whose athleticism is what sets him apart. He was a two-way player at Spanish Fork who excelled at the wide receiver position. He was one of the top players in the state of Utah out of high school and has great size that will serve him well at linebacker. He likely won't be a big-impact guy this year but is somebody who could burst on to the scene at some point if given the opportunity.
Projected Post-Fall Depth Chart
Starters: OLB-Brian Blechen, MLB-VJ Fehoko, OLB-Reshawn Hooker
Bench: OLB-Jared Norris, Jacoby Hale, Uaea Masina, Travis Still; MLB-LT Filiaga
Fall Camp Preview - Linebackers
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