Gionni Paul (Sr)
Jared Norris (Sr)
Jason Whittingham (Sr)
Jake Jackson (Fr)
Sunia Tauteoli (So)
Pita Taumoepenu (Jr)
Uaea Masina (So)
After suffering an injury in spring ball last season that forced him to miss the first 2 games of last season and nursing injuries throughout the year that caused him to miss the last 3 games of the season, the Florida native came on like a hurricane (no pun intended) at the big house in Michigan and never looked back. The senior rover linebacker tallied 61 total tackles, 1 sack and 4 interceptions in only 8 games played. Assuming he stays healthy, expect Paul to be one of the standout leaders of Utah’s linebacking corps and defense as a whole.
The senior mac linebacker started every game for the Utes last season and totaled 116 tackles, 13 tackles for loss and 4 sacks. Norris was one of the most reliable and consistent players on the defensive side of the ball last season, and barring any unforeseen injuries, Ute fans should expect more of the consistent, hard-nosed style of play that Norris has brought to the Utah football program.
After being limited to 5 games last season due to injury, Whittingham is expected to be a major contributor to the linebacking group for the Utes this season. After putting up statistics like he did in 2013 where he recorded 81 total tackles, 5 tackles for loss and 1 sack the Utes should expect more of the same type production. If healthy, expect a solid contribution from Whittingham next season for the Utes.
Tauteoli went through somewhat confusing recruitment process that saw him play his freshman year at Snow junior college in Ephraim, pledging to play for Utah State, and then ultimately sign with Utah. Now with that whole process behind him, there are big expectations for Tauteoli this season with the limited depth Utah has at linebacker as he is already listed on the 2 deep roster backing up Gionni Paul at rover linebacker. He's not the tallest guy in the world, but he's built like a brick house and hits like a truck.
The Other Candidates
A big opportunity waits for the former Brighton High School standout that missed most of last season with an injury. In a position group with lesser depth than most it is not out of the question for Masina to be able to get consistent playing time this season if he can stay healthy.
Coming off of last season where he put up 17 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks more of the same is expected of the junior hybrid DE / LB. The projected position for Taumoepenu is defensive end, but it is not out of the question to see him at linebacker also. If he can expand his skills in pass coverage he could take on a much larger role for the Utes defense this upcoming season.
Jackson initially signed with Utah in 2012 and served an LDS mission in San Antonio, Texas. Reportedly came back from his mission with little rust and impressed the coaches with his athleticism. Jackson’s high school film is impressive. Long, rangy, aggressive in pursuit with good speed for his size (6-3, 225). Listed as backup mac linebacker on spring ball 2 deep roster.
Projected Fall Depth Chart
2015 Depth Chart Projections: Linebacker
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