The Lowdown: 2020 Linebackers
Throughout fall camp, UtahUtes.com will feature "The Lowdown" on each position group on the field.
Linebackers coach Colton Swan will be looking to reconstruct the position group in 2020 with an All-Pac-12 starter returning and several new faces eager to hit the gridiron this fall.
Junior Devin Lloyd is Utah's only returning linebacker, but is primed to have another standout year after his breakout sophomore campaign. He led the nation's No. 2 defense in tackles with 91, finished second on the team in sacks (6.5) and also racked up 11.0 TFL with one pick-six to earn All-Pac-12 honorable mention status. Sophomore Nephi Sewell, who played in the final three games of 2019 at safety and on special teams, also made the switch to linebacker in the spring.
— Utah Football (@Utah_Football) October 14, 2020
PRE-CAMP LINEBACKER DEPTH CHART
|29||Nephi Sewell (6-0, 225, Jr.)||26/20|
|55||Andrew Mata'afa (6-3, 225, So.) OR||7/0|
|20||Jeremy Mercier (6-3, 228, Jr.)||0/0|
|0||Devin Lloyd (6-3, 232, Jr.)||28/14|
|9||Sione Fotu (6-0, 230, Fr.)||0/0|
|54||Hayden Furey (6-2, 225, So.)||5/0|
|32||Moroni Anae (6-1, 225, Jr.)||0/0|
COACH KYLE WHITTINGHAM SAYS
"We expect Devin Lloyd to be the leader of this group after a strong sophomore campaign in 2019 that saw him lead the team in tackles. With Francis Bernard graduating, Devin will have a new face alongside him but there are strong candidates to earn the other starting position. Nephi Sewell will be among those in contention for playing time as he will make the move to linebacker from the safety position, and junior college transfer Jeremy Mercier has a chance to make an immediate impact."
QUICK HITS ON RETURNING HEADLINERS
29 :: Nephi Sewell :: Rover :: St. George, Utah
Nevada transfer became eligible to play in late 2019, seeing action in three games with a start against Texas … in his three games last season, recording 14 tackles that included six against Texas … played in 23 games with 19 starts at Nevada from 2017-18 … started 11 games as a sophomore in 2018, recording 53 tackles (6.0 TFL), an interception and fumble recovery … career-high in tackles came against Washignton State as a freshman in 2017, racking up 10.
The white team was storming down the field to tie, but Nephi Sewell put an end to the threat with this interception. ??
— Pac-12 Network (@Pac12Network) April 13, 2019
55 :: Andrew Mata'afa :: Rover :: San Diego, Calif.
Played in seven games as a redshirt freshman in 2019, notching a pass breakup against Oregon State … came to the Utes from Mt. Carmel HS as a three-star recruit … had to sit out his senior season due to injury, recording a sack, an interception, a fumble recovery and a blocked kick his junior year … was also a talented volleyball player, earning All-CIF in 2017 … cousin, Hercules, was the AP Defensive Player of the Year for Washington State in 2017.
0 :: Devin Lloyd :: Mac :: Chula Vista, Calif.
Breakout season in 2019, starting all 14 games at rover linebacker as a sophomore … earned All-Pac-12 honorable mention … led Utah with 91 tackles, was second on the team and tied for seventh in the league in total sacks (6.5), also ranking second on the team and ninth in the Pac-12 in total TFL (11.0) … career-high 10 tackles against Northern Illinois … first-career interception return for a touchdown came against Oregon State, running it back for 64 yards … also played in all 14 games as a redshirt freshman in 2018.
— devin lloyd (@DevinLloyd_) October 7, 2020
54 :: Hayden Furey :: Stud :: Saratoga Springs, Utah
Walk-on joined the team in the fall of 2019, seeing action in five games as a true freshman on special teams that season … had one tackle against Oregon State … was a team captain at Westlake HS … two-way player his senior season where he racked up 49 tackles (2.0 TFL), two passes defended and a forced fumble, adding 39 receptions for 526 yards (6 TD) … scored seven touchdowns on 25 receptions (215 yds) as a junior.
32 :: Moroni Anae :: Stud :: San Diego, Calif.
Walk-on joined the team in 2018 after transferring from Riverside CC … he played in 11 games as a freshman at Riverside, recording 37 tackles (5.0 TFL) with a fumble recovery and blocked PAT … was first-team CIF All-San Diego Section as a senior at Cathedral Catholic … staggering 106 tackles with 12.5 sacks as a senior … Utah runs in his blood with grandfather Bill (football), sister Wendy (basketball), cousin Valerie (basketball), Malia (basketball) and cousin Bradlee (football) all playing sports at Utah.
QUICK HITS ON NEWCOMERS
20 :: Jeremy Mercier :: Rover :: Chandler, Ariz.
Named Co-Defensive Player of the Year for Hohokam Junior College Athletic Conference while playing at Gila River CC … also spent two seasons at Mesa Community College, playing in eight games with 23 tackles in 2018 … was all-region as a senior at Basha HS in Chandler, Ariz. … had 51 total tackles with nine passes defended in 2016.
9 :: Sione Fotu :: Mac :: West Jordan, Utah
First-team all-state as a senior for Bingham HS … three-star recruit coming out of high school, ranked the No. 7 overall recruit in the state of Utah by 247Sports … racked up 90 total tackles his senior year, also grabbing two interceptions … also recorded 40 tackles (2.0 sacks) as a junior … was invited to the 2020 Polynesian Bowl.