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Utes’ young defensive ends showed well during spring camp. Here’s what stood out

The position group features plenty of youth and plenty of depth, which is never a bad thing

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Freshman defensive end Xavier Carlton sacks Peter Costelli in the Red and White game in April in Salt Lake City.

Utah Utes quarterback Peter Costelli is sacked by Utah Utes defensive end Xavier Carlton (44) during spring game in Salt Lake City on Saturday, April 17, 2021. Costelli is among the young Utes at the position who turned heads last spring.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Utah’s defensive ends position features plenty of youth and plenty of depth.

Defensive ends coach Lewis Powell likes the group he’s working with this season. 

Junior Mika Tafua is expected to be the starter at left end and Maxs Tupai is slated to start at right end. Sophomore Blake Kuithe  and freshman Xavier Carlton are backing up Tafua while freshmen Van Fillinger and Miki Suguturaga are backing up Tupai. 

“Our group has one senior, one junior and there’s five freshmen. I feel like they’re not freshmen. They had an extra year last year. They’re experienced for being freshmen. Every single one of them has been getting force-fed a lot of reps,” Powell said during the spring. “I don’t look at them as freshmen. Not only giving them a lot of reps but they’re adopting their culture here on defense.

“... When you see next to their names it says, ‘freshman,’ it’s shocking to see. It’s awesome to have some good depth and some good competition.”

Powell has high expectations for Carlton and Fillinger. 

“Those two, they hit the ground running this spring. I’ve been excited to see their growth. Miki is also a freshman and Blake Kuithe is a sophomore,” he said. “They’ve all been getting a bunch of reps. I feel like those guys are all upperclassmen already with the experience that they have. It’s going to be exciting to see. Having a bunch of those guys fosters good culture and competition. It’s been good competition this spring.”

Overall, Powell is pleased with the progress of the defensive ends.

“It’s been awesome. We have a senior with Maxs Tupai but I’ve got a bunch of underclassmen, sophomores and freshmen. We’ve been feeding them through a firehose,” he said. “They’ve been getting a bunch of reps and every single one of them has been getting better. ... We’re excited and I’m fired up to get these guys so many reps.”