As the Utah Utes attempt to gain some ground in the Pac 12 next season, they will need a better effort from their defense, and their linebackers in particular. Kyle Whittingham has to overhaul his defensive line with the loss of Star Lotulelei, so getting excellent play from his linebackers will be a key early on in 2013. Luckily, Trevor Reilly is still there to hold down the defense for the Utes next season.
Reilly led the team with 69 tackles in 2012 with 6.5 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks and an interception. He stepped up as a disruptive force last season, chipping in four pass breakups, two quarterback hurries and three forced fumbles. He will be asked to do even more in 2013, however, as he is leaned on as a defensive leader by the rest of the unit.
At 6-foot-5, 245-pounds, Reilly has good size and strength to make plays behind the line of scrimmage even if he has to force his way past blockers. He needs to become more consistent in his pressure, however, and play downhill more often to become a regular fixture in the offensive backfield. He has the skillset to get it done and was named to the preseason Butkus Award watch list because of it.
With questions all over the offensive side of the ball in 2013, Utah will have to get strong performances from the defense to stay in games early next season. That means Reilly will need to take his game to the next level and become an elite disruptor on defense to keep opposing offenses from distancing themselves from the Utes. Does he have what it takes to get the job done next fall?