In 2022 4-star signee Lander Barton, Utah may have found its next stud linebacker
It’s a shame 1 outlet out of 5 cost Devin Lloyd a deserved title of unanimous All-American. Despite the Associated Press and the Walter Camp Foundation and the Football Writers Association of America and the Sporting News all tabbing the star Utah linebacker as a First Team All-American, the AFCA dropped him to the Second Team.
Poof. First unanimous selection for an offensive or defensive player at Utah gone.
“That says that there’s one group out there that doesn’t evaluate as well as the others, I guess,” said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham on Wednesday, per the Salt Lake Tribune’s Josh Newman. “I can’t even fathom that he is not a first-team All-American in everybody’s eyes, but everyone has their own opinion, and I guess that was that entity’s own opinion.”
With a Rose Bowl still to be played, Lloyd sits at 106 tackles on the year. His 8 sacks rank 2nd in the Pac-12, behind teammate Mika Tafua. His 22 tackles for loss are far and away the most in the league, with the gap between him and 2nd bigger than the gap between 2nd and 35th. The 2-time Butkus Award finalist is just the latest in a long line of elite linebackers to come out of Whittingham’s program.
Replacing him won’t be easy.
At least it shouldn’t.
Whittingham and his staff are pretty good at this, though.
Utah might have legitimately found one of the country’s best linebackers in its own backyard with 4-star Lander Barton. By 247Sports‘ evaluation, he’s a top-150 player in the class and the 11th-best linebacker. (ESPN’s system, as tends to be the case, depreciates the Composite quite a bit.)
On Wednesday, Whittingham described Barton and fellow classmate Justin Medlock as “two of the best linebackers in the West, maybe in the country.”
It would appear the legacy commit has all the requisite tools. He’s 6-foot-4, he’s long and lean, he’s got a frame that should fill out well, he can play multiple positions, he does well to wrap up and finish plays, and there are moments where he shows off just high-level instincts from the linebacker spot. His MaxPreps page credits Barton with 341 tackles over the last 3 seasons of high school ball. That’s impressive no matter where you’re playing.
“One of the best high school players I’ve ever seen,” said linebacker coach Colton Swan.
“When you watch the film, holy cow, he’s just destroying everybody,” added defensive coordinator Morgan Scalley.
Recently announced as an invitee to the All-America Bowl, Barton comes from a line of Ute players. It’ll mean something to him. Add in the tools and Utah has the prospects of a big-time producer.
With Lloyd and possibly even Nephi Sewell on their way out, Utah could find itself looking for some new starters this offseason. It’s not a shock to think Barton could earn playing time right away. The attributes that make both Lloyd and Sewell great—instinctive, ability to flow downhill in a hurry, quick blinkers—Barton appears to possess as well.
At the very least, he and Medlock give more depth to a room Utah has proven more than capable of developing stud players from.
So, while there was certainly some frustration over a bit of missed history on Wednesday, there was at least one silver lining. Another Barton is back in a Utah uniform.