Ethan Calvert’s freshman season at the University of Utah officially consisted of one game. The reality is, it lasted just one play.
The linebacker made his debut for the Utes in a season-opening over Weber State last year. On the first play of his career, he tore his ACL and was lost for the season.
“I actually didn’t think I tore 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 told me I was done.”
Per the 247sports composite, Calvert is the No. 3-rated recruit in Utah history, and is the program’s highest-rated linebacker in a decade. Those facts came with expectations for the former Oaks Christian School (Calif.) standout, but instead, it’s been quite a winding road.
“It is what it is,” Calvert said this week. “I’m just trying to get my knee stronger every day and learn all the plays mentally. 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 COVID–19 pandemic forced the California Interscholastic Federation to push the season back multiple times, ultimately playing that 2020 season during the spring of 2021. Then came the torn ACL, which cost him his freshman season and limited his workload during spring practice.
Now healthy, Calvert said he has no restrictions and is a full fall camp participant as the Sept. 3 opener at the University of Florida approaches.
“Every practice, my knee is starting to feel better and better, so I’m just brushing off the rust a little bit, getting more comfortable, getting to know the plays a little bit more,” Calvert said. “I was out all last season, didn’t play my senior year, so it feels good being able to get back into the groove of things.”
Calvert’s full health has arrived at a time when Utah is looking to replace two stalwart linebackers in Devin Lloyd and Nephi Sewell. That said, the Utes’ linebacker room might be the deepest, most talented within the defense.
So what might Calvert’s role be, at least for the opener?
The assumption is that Florida transfer Mo Diabate will be an opening-day starter at one linebacker spot, with true freshman Lander Barton and sophomore Karene Reid thought to be the primary candidates for the second spot.
Calvert, his older brother Josh, Hayden Fury, Andrew Mata’afa, and true freshman Justin Medlock are all threats to crack Utah’s first two-deep, which should be released on Aug. 29, the Monday before the Florida game.
“Right now, I’m just trying to make as many plays as I possibly can in practice, trying to prove to the coaches who I am because they didn’t really see me last year,” Calvert said. “Other than that, just trying to contribute in any way I can. Special teams, defense, whatever it is.”