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He is one of Utah’s highest-rated recruits ever. What can Ethan Calvert do for the Utes this year?

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The No. 3 recruit in Utah history lost the 2021 season in the first game of his career.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) University of Utah football linebacker Ethan Calvert speaks to media on Wednesday, August 12, 2021.

Ethan Calvert’s freshman season at the University of Utah was officially one game. The reality is that it only lasted one play.

The linebacker made his debut for the Utes last year in a season opening over Weber State. In the first game of his career, he tore his ACL and lost for the season.

I actually didn’t think I was tearing it because I didn’t know what that feels like, Calvert said Wednesday afternoon after practice. My knee popped, I ran off the field and they said I was done.

According to the 247sports composite, Calvert is the #3-rated recruit in Utah history and the program’s highest-rated linebacker in a decade. Those facts came with expectations for the former Oaks Christian School (Calif.) stand out, but instead it was a rather winding road.

It is what it is, Calvert said this week. I’m just trying to strengthen my knee every day and mentally learn all the plays. I wanted to be good on that side, so when I came back I could be at full speed.

Calvert did not play his senior season at Oaks Christian in 2020 after the COVID19 pandemic forced the California Interscholastic Federation to push back the season several times, eventually playing that 2020 season in the spring of 2021. Then came the torn ACL, which put him through his freshman season and limited his workload during spring training.

Now healthy, Calvert said he has no restrictions and is a full participant in the fall camp as the Sept. 3 opener at the University of Florida approaches.

Every workout my knee is starting to feel better and better, so I’m just wiping the rust a little bit, getting more comfortable, getting to know the games a little bit more, Calvert said. I was out all year last season, didn’t play my senior year, so it feels good to get back into the rhythm of things.

Calvert’s full health has arrived at a time when Utah is looking to replace two solid linebackers in Devin Lloyd and Nephi Sewell. That said, Utes’ linebacker room is arguably the deepest, most talented within the defense.

So what could Calvert’s role be, at least for the opener?

The assumption is that Florida transfer Mo Diabate will be an opening day starter in one linebacker spot, with real freshman Lander Barton and sophomore Karene Reid being the top contenders for the second spot.

Calvert, his older brother Josh, Hayden Fury, Andrew Mataafa and real freshman Justin Medlock are all threats to crack Utah’s first two-deep, which is due to be released on August 29, the Monday before the game in Florida.

Right now I’m just trying to make as many plays as I can in practice, trying to prove to the coaches who I am because they didn’t really see me last year, Calvert said. I try to contribute in any way I can. Special teams, defense, whatever it is.

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