Utah football: Brian Blechen making big impression as linebacker
As quickly as Brian Blechen grew into his role as a safety for the Utah Utes, he grew out of it.
Blechen, who was one of the surprising stars for Utah's defense in 2010, put on the pounds almost as fast as his reputation grew, thanks to his weight room routines.
Before long, the player who scampered all over the field delivering hits was too muscular to play safety, the Ute coaching staff believed.
"You can't have an oversized safety in our defense," Utah defensive coordinator Kalani Sitake said. "He wasn't thin anymore, and he would have struggled. We had to move him."
Now the 6-foot-2, 230-pound Blechen is utilizing his talents at linebacker. But even though he is in new territory, Blechen is expected to be the same hard-hitting player he was a year ago.
"It's a tough challenge, but I'm learning it," he said. "I'm giving all of my effort."
If the past is any indication, all of his effort should be good enough for him to succeed at the spot. After all, moving from one role to another is nothing new for the Moorpark, Calif., native.
Blechen came to the Utes as a highly ranked dual threat quarterback. However, it wasn't long before he was switched to defense. It didn't take him any time to jump on the learning curve, as he made four freshman All-American teams, finishing with four interceptions and tying for third on the team with 67 tackles.
In his first game against Pitt, he intercepted a pass on the first play of overtime to set up the winning field goal. That play not only endeared him to Utah fans everywhere, it also sparked one of the best seasons a Utah freshman has had in recent memory.
"I wasn't sure how I was going to do and that pick, it was like, 'Wow, I can do this,' " Blechen said. "I just ran with it after that."
The Utes have Blechen penciled in to start at stud linebacker alongside senior Matt Martinez at rover linebacker and senior Chaz Walker at middle linebacker.
Despite his inexperience, Blechen isn't seen as the weak link in the linebacking unit.
"He is awesome," Sitake said. "He's a natural, and he could be one of the best linebackers who has played at Utah. That position seems made for him because he is so fast."
Blechen is still learning the position but so far has impressed the coaches with his natural football sense.
"He just needs to get more reps; there isn't anything more he needs to learn," Sitake said. "The truth is he isn't far from being game-ready."
So far, the only opponent that has gotten the better of Blechen in camp was a pesky bee that flew down his throat during the first day of camp. The bee stung Blechen in the mouth, necessitating a trip to the hospital to make sure Blechen's throat didn't swell and close.
Blechen was on the field the next day, back to stinging would-be foes.
"Couple guys have joked and called me bumblebee," he said. "The move has been good. I was able to click with the other linebackers, and they've helped me adjust and are cool."
It's a good thing he has settled in with his teammates, because the Utes have no plans of moving the fierce competitor.
"He is at the point of attack far more now than he was at safety," Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said. "We aren't looking back at that move at all it has been a great move for us."
Utah's projected linebackers
Matt Martinez (6-0, 225, Sr.)
J.J. Williams (6-0, 220, Sr.)
Chaz Walker (6-0, 223, Sr.)
Boo Andersen (601, 240, Jr.)
Brian Blechen (6-2, 230, So.)
Nai Fotu (6-0, 247, Sr.)
Hometown • Moorpark, Calif.
2010 • Made All-America freshman teams for Sporting News, Rivals.com, Phil Steele and CollegeFootballNews.com â¦ had career-high nine tackles against Air Force and TCU. â¦ Interception in the end zone against San Diego State allowed the Utes to clinch a 38-34 win â¦ Academic All-MWC.