Utah Utes: Depth Chart – Linebackers and Defensive Backs

Freshman Jaylon Johnson answering questions.

Linebacker

The LB core is a position that isn’t really going to surprise a lot of fans, at least as far as the Starters go. What may surprise you is the depth. With the recovery of Sunia Tauteoli from last years persistent injuries, as well as Kavika Luafatasaga’s stellar ending to last season, the starters are pretty well entrenched. Due to the missed time last year Cody Barton will be a very experienced backup at one spot. The Utes also had a couple transfers come in to the family. Cody Ippolito has been a starter with the Arizona Wildcats, and he instantly adds run stopping credibility to the group. Karsen Liljenquist may already be the strongest LB on the team. Donavan Thompson was a special teams player last year and started camp with an “or” next to his name for a starter spot.

Starters

Sunia Tauteoli: https://www.utahutes.com/roster.aspx?rp_id=4803

Kavika Luafatasaga: https://www.utahutes.com/roster.aspx?rp_id=4784

Other Contributors

Cody Barton: https://www.utahutes.com/roster.aspx?rp_id=4739

Donavan Thompson: https://www.utahutes.com/roster.aspx?rp_id=4804

Cody Ippolito: https://www.utahutes.com/roster.aspx?rp_id=4827

Christian Drews: https://www.utahutes.com/roster.aspx?rp_id=4750

With the Utes base Defense only having two LB spots on the field at a time, we may see more than these six guys, but not a lot. Other guys will contribute on special teams, as Whit tends to run special teams LB and DB heavy.

Safeties

With little known about when Chase Hansen will be back in the regular rotation, I will list him as a starter, mostly because I’d be crazy not to. Marcus Williams has taken his ball hawking skills to “The Nola” so there was an opening for the other Safety spots. That’s right, I said was. JC transfer Corrion Ballard grabbed the job by the end of Spring Camp and hasn’t relinquished the coveted starting spot.

Starters

Chase Hansen: https://www.utahutes.com/roster.aspx?rp_id=4765

Corrion Ballard: https://www.utahutes.com/roster.aspx?rp_id=4816

Other Contributors

Philip Afia: https://www.utahutes.com/roster.aspx?rp_id=4734

Marquise Blair: https://www.utahutes.com/roster.aspx?rp_id=4864

Josh Nurse: https://www.utahutes.com/roster.aspx?rp_id=5986

Notes: Afia and Blair have been filling in admirably for the sidelined Hansen. They have been getting valuable reps with the starters that will pay dividends by the end of the season. If you clicked on the above link for Nurse you will find it doesn’t contain a huge amount of useful info. Here you go. Nurse was a late pickup by the Utes as a WR out of Blinn CC. and as we should all know by now, if Utah moves a WR to Safety it will turn out well. Believe that.

 

Cornerbacks

The NFL has taken a few of Utah’s CB’s in the last couple years. Graduation has claimed a couple more. This is now one of the biggest question marks on the team. As a disclaimer I will say that I have a pretty good idea of guys that will see the field, but am completely guessing at the starters. So, here goes.

Starters

Julian Blackmon: https://www.utahutes.com/roster.aspx?rp_id=4743

Jaylon Johnson: https://www.utahutes.com/roster.aspx?rp_id=4870

Terrell Burgess: https://www.utahutes.com/roster.aspx?rp_id=4744

If you’re reading the bios on these guys you’ll realize this the starters consist of two sophomores and a freshman. This is a calculated risk. If there is no separation between an upperclassman and an underclassman why not start the learning curve early. Jaylon Johnson has been quoted saying his goals as a freshman are to be the starter and be a member of the Freshmen All-American team. After watching him practice against Carrington, I think he’ll definitely accomplish the first goal. And here’s to goal number two as well!

Other Contributors

Tyrone “Boney” Smith: https://www.utahutes.com/roster.aspx?rp_id=4801

Boobie Hobbs: https://www.utahutes.com/roster.aspx?rp_id=4773

Casey Hughes: https://www.utahutes.com/roster.aspx?rp_id=4776

Nygel King: https://www.utahutes.com/roster.aspx?rp_id=4779

Kenric Young: https://www.utahutes.com/roster.aspx?rp_id=4815

The Corner group has an insane amount of athleticism, and an insanely minuscule number of snaps under their belt. Young was a WR until a little over two weeks ago and had an “or” next to his name on the Utes pre-fall depth chart. Boobie has perhaps the most snaps of any of the CB core. and there’s at least three to four more guys that could see the field. I’m cautiously optimistic about this group.

 

 

 

About the author

David Elmer