Along with the defensive line, UConn’s linebacking corps is likely the most settled heading into the 2021 season. The Huskies have almost an entire two-deep full of experienced, FBS-caliber players, more than they can say about almost any other position group.
Omar Fortt is now a grizzled veteran, having played 35 out of 36 possible games since he showed up on campus in 2017, and now as a senior, he’ll be looked toward for leadership in one of the most leadership-oriented positions on the field.
Fortt is the team’s leading returning tackler, with 70 tackles, 35 of them solo. He’s a converted defensive back, but has been working on his size during the Huskies’ prolonged offseason, recovering from knee surgery, and now weighs in at 223, standing 6 feet tall. A renewed Fortt is expected to be the weak-side linebacker in defensive coordinator Dean Spanos’ 4-3 formation.
“You look at him and you don’t even recognize it’s not the same guy,” Edsall said on his development this offseason. “It’s just totally different.”
Graduate transfer DJ Morgan is Fortt’s backup on the depth chart, but it’s hard to imagine the man who led all linebackers in snap counts in 2019 would be riding the bench for too long. Morgan played through an injury for much of the 2019 season, gathering 49 tackles, seven of them for a loss, and brings an important bit of experience to the position group.
Redshirt junior Ian Swenson is listed next to Fortt on the depth chart, another converted defensive back. Swenson had 40 tackles in 2019, 17 of them solo with three sacks. He’s another player who’s been in the weight room recently, now weighing 229 pounds and standing at 6-foot-2, measurables more suited to a linebacker than a defensive back.
Sophomore Jackson Mitchell is the youngest out of the three starting linebackers listed on the depth chart and has arguably the most potential out of all of them. Mitchell impressed shortly after arriving on campus, winning the starting job partly through his freshman year and became one of the best freshman linebackers in the country. His 65 tackles in 2019 ranked third among true freshmen, and like all of the Huskies’ linebacking corps, he’s had a super-long offseason to hone his skills.
“In the past, he did not understand the concepts,” Spanos told the Courant this offseason. “You see him evolving to a student of the game.”
UConn football starts its season on Saturday, August 28 against Fresno State. The game kicks off at 2 p.m. ET on CBS Sports.