Following Utah's spring camp, the freshmen class of 2022 may have already proven itself to be one of the most talented classes in recent years, especially with the highest ranked recruit in program history in Lander Barton. Despite his young age and just barely graduating from Brighton High School, Barton has already shown he can compete on the college stage at an elite level.
Right from the beginning, Barton caught the eyes of the coaching staff, including Head Coach Kyle Whittingham who was impressed with his performance but not surprised after what they had seen from him during his recruiting process.
“When you consider that he should still be in high school right now, it's pretty amazing what he's doing. But it's no surprise. He's got all the tools. When we recruited him, we felt we knew exactly what we were getting…there's nothing that is surprising us. But it is pretty impressive that he is doing what he is doing at such an early stage,” Whittingham said.
While there were some significant shoes to be filled after the departure of Devin Lloyd and Nephi Sewell to the league, Barton has already stepped up and demonstrated a lot of potential in just his first spring camp. Despite a plethora of talent, including players such as Andrew Mata'afa, Hayden Furey, Justin Medlock, Karene Reid, and the Calvert brothers, it was Barton running alongside Reid with the ones during camp.
“It's been an honor. I didn’t expect to come in right away and start taking one reps. I expected to kind of work my way up through it so it's an honor to do it and I’ve got to play good to keep playing in that spot…I feel like coach [Colton] Swan has put a lot on my plate, trying to test me and get me ready in a fast period of time. So putting me in the one spot has forced me to be able to do that,” Barton explained.
Even though its impressive, its certainly no surprise that Barton is competing at such a high level already. What makes him so special is his superior arm length which he greatly utilizes to shed blockers, make tackles, and break up passes. He also has great athleticism for the position, showing strong bursts, great hands to shed blockers, and a punishing physicality to make tackles and finish off plays. Similar to Lloyd, Barton also possesses that sixth-sense for the football which allows him to sniff out the play and stop ball carriers at a high rate of production.
During the spring game, these attributes were on full display as the young freshman showed no fear and attacked the trenches head on. For the day, he finished with five tackles, three of which were solo.
So while there's still plenty of time between now and the first game on September 3, Barton appears to be in great shape to fulfill a starting role for the Utah defense. Despite being so young, Barton is simply a different breed and is poised for a great initial season at Utah, and a special career.
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