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Spenser Heaps, Deseret News
Utah Utes players celebrate after linebacker Sunia Tauteoli (19) intercepts a Brigham Young pass during a game at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2016.

The linebacker position was a largely inexperienced one last season, but that's no longer the case as the Utes return pretty much everybody. Better yet, it seems that several players are poised for a breakout.

Utah's defense is already solid, and if the linebackers can step up, the Utes' already scary defense could be absolutely terrifying.

Here's a breakdown of Utah's linebackers for 2017.

Key losses


Projected depth chart

Starters: Sunia Tauteoli, Kavika Luafatasaga

Key backups: Cody Barton, Karsen Liljenquist, Cody Ippolito, Donavan Thompson

Peavler's take

The Utes return pretty much everyone at linebacker. While this position had its ups and downs last season, several players seem poised for a breakout season this fall.

Tauteoli is a dangerous playmaker at linebacker and looks to build on a solid season. He won FWAA National Defensive Player of the Week for his big game against BYU. He returned a pick for a touchdown, forced a fumble and helped stop the Cougars' late two-point conversion to seal the victory for the Utes. He'll be a key senior leader on defense this fall.

Luafatasaga seemed to turn a corner at the end of last season. He had a solid game against Indiana in the Foster Farms Bowl with 12 tackles, including 2.0 of them for loss. If he continues on the same trajectory as last season, 2017 could be a special year for the senior.

Barton had his ups and downs last season. He finished second on the team with 66 tackles, and he made a respectable 8.5 tackles for loss. However, he's slipped on the depth chart and missed the last few games last season due to injury. Still, he could turn a corner this season.

Walk-on Liljenquist played at Weber State and Snow College before coming to Utah. He's remarkably strong as he led the team this spring in lifting 435 pounds on the bench press.

Ippolito is a graduate transfer from Arizona who has struggled with the injury bug many times during his career, and he's still recovering from his latest knee injury. If he can get and stay healthy, he'll be a solid addition to Utah's defense. He made 28 tackles and 4.0 tackles-for-loss in six games last season.

Thompson is a young up-and-coming player to watch this fall. He had a good day during Utah's first spring scrimmage as he made a pick in the end zone. He'll break out sooner or later.

Lafe Peavler is a sports strategist for the Deseret News and KSL.com. Follow him on Twitter @LafePeavler.