The latest in the line of Barton athletes that have played at the University of Utah, Lander Barton knows there’s high expectations based on the family name.

His dad, Paul, played football and baseball at Utah, and his mom, Mikki-Kane, played basketball and volleyball and is in the Crimson Club Hall of Fame.

His brother, Cody Barton, plays linebacker for the Washington Commanders, while his other brother, Jackson, is an offensive lineman for the Arizona Cardinals. His sister, Dani, is Utah volleyball’s all-time leader in career kills.

“He’s a generational kid here in Utah, his whole family played here. He’s got a lot to prove for himself and he’s got a lot to prove building his own legacy. So the expectations are very high for Lander,” linebackers coach Colton Swan said.

Barton burst onto the scene in his freshman season, winning the Pac-12’s Freshman Defensive Player of the Year award. He played in all of Utah’s games, starting three, and totaled 46 tackles, 4.5 sacks, eight tackles for loss, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.

After putting on 12 pounds in the offseason, Barton’s big focus this offseason was gaining more weight while keeping his same speed.

“Lander’s done a really good job. He’s improved all phases of his training from a speed level to strength level,” Swan said, adding that Barton also spends a lot of time in the film room.

As often happens following a first college season, Barton says the game — and the reads he needs to make — is slowing down for him.

“Completely different person. It feels way different being out there now,” Barton said.

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Linebacker has been a position of strength for Utah in recent years, and this year looks to be no different. The Utes have three clear-cut starting caliber linebackers — Barton, Karene Reid and Levani Damuni.

Reid wants to see Utah run more three linebacker formations.

“Hey, if I was a coach, that’s what I would do, man,” Reid said with a laugh. “There’s just so much good talent in the room.”

An All-Pac-12 First Team member last year, Reid enters his junior season after racking up 72 tackles, five sacks, and an interception in 2022. He was selected to the 2023 All-Pac-12 preseason first team.

“He has a has a great deal of stability, toughness, much like Damuni you can count on him. He’s durable. One of the most intelligent defenders we have and just has a knack for being around the ball,” Whittingham said.

Add in senior Stanford graduate transfer linebacker Damuni and the linebacker room looks strong.

Last year with the Cardinal, Damuni had 76 tackles, a sack, an interception and two forced fumbles.

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“Stanford’s had a very good program and so I think the culture will be an easy fit. He’s from the state of Utah, I think he gets what we do here and how we do it and he’ll fit right in,” Swan said.

After growing up in Logan and playing at Ridgeline High, Dumani is happy to be back in his home state. His dad, Waqa, who is the assistant athletic director for football operations at Utah State, and his mom, Val, will be in the stands this season.

Val sold her wedding ring to pay for Dumani and his siblings’ Little League football games. Now, all these years later, Dumani has carved out a successful college football career.

“A while ago, money was tight and my mom just did that for us kids because she knows that we love the game,” Dumani said. “Sacrificing something that means a lot to her to help her kids out is something I always remember and I’ll never take for granted every time I step on this field and strap it up.”

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