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SALT LAKE CITY — It didn't take long for observers to notice that Lander Barton could be a great asset for the Utah football program.
The former four-star linebacker, and youngest brother to Cody and Jackson, from Brighton High signed with Utah in Dec. 2021 and quickly made his mark in spring ahead of his freshman campaign. Barton was going to demand attention on the field and was named one of three starters at the position ahead of the 2022 season.
The Pac-12 quickly learned his name, too, and he was named the Pac-12 Freshman Defensive Player of the Year on Tuesday. It's the second consecutive season a Utah freshman was named to the honor — Junior Tafuna earned the distinction at the conclusion of last season.
Barton finished his freshman season with 42 total tackles, 5.0 tackles and 3.5 sacks. He also had three quarterback hurries, one pass breakup, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery to cement a position group that lost its two mainstays in Devin Lloyd and Nephi Sewell to the NFL draft.
Though he was named to the postseason honor, Barton was not included in either first- or second-team All-Pac-12 honors, though six of his teammates were named to the two teams.
Four Utah players were named to the first team, including Dalton Kincaid (TE), Braeden Daniels (OL), Sataoa Laumea (OL) and Clark Phillips III (CB). On the second team was Junior Tafuna (DL) and Karene Reid (LB). An additional six were named honorable mentions, including Keaton Bills (OL), Cole Bishop (S), Jonah Elliss (DL), R.J. Hubert (S), Cameron Rising (QB) and Devaughn Vele (WR).
USC quarterback Caleb Williams and defensive lineman Tuli Tuipulotu earned the conference's top prizes as offensive and defensive players of the year, respectively, and Oregon State running back Damien Martinez was named the freshman offensive player of the year. Martinez's head coach, Jonathan Smith, was named co-coach of the year with Washington's Kalen DeBoer.