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Utah football: Freshman Jackson Barton has chance to start for Utes

Published March 26, 2014 11:41 am

Utah football • Early Brighton graduate is in the mix for the left tackle position.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The news that Utah would join the Pac-12 brought talk of an imminent recruiting multiplier known — at first hopefully, later at times derisively — as the Pac-12 bump.

The theory held that Utah's newfound cachet would lure players whom coaches once could only dream about — those who were courted by college football royalty like USC, Florida State, Alabama.

But if anything it's been a bump in the road, with an exodus of prospects like Cottonwood QB Cooper Bateman (Alabama), Woods Cross LB Sean Barton (Stanford) and Highland DT Bryan Mone (Michigan), to name a few.

And this is what makes Jackson Barton so important.

In the Brighton early graduate, the Utes not only scored a potential starting left tackle, but also a guy whom Utah coaches can point out to future in-state recruits and say, "See?"

"I hope that guys start getting on board here," says Paul Barton, Jackson's father and a former Ute quarterback and pitcher who jokes that his moods at the office Monday are determined by Utah's performance on Saturday. "Utah's ready to turn the corner and make a name for themselves."

Just 18, Jackson looks ready to help. He's 6-foot-6, broad-shouldered and as lithe as a 296-pounder has any right to be. Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham said that while Pac-12 pass rushers are not to be trifled with, Barton has physical tools that are "second to none" and has not been ruled out as a starter at the offensive line's glamour position.

Jackson's mom, Mikka Kane-Barton, is a Ute volleyball and basketball legend enshrined in the Crimson Club Hall of Fame. If anybody was born to be a Ute, it was Jackson. But he wasn't in love with football at first blush. He wasn't mean enough. So he took a little pushing.

"We had kind of decided when he was an early age that sports are not an option in our house," Paul said. "Maybe the option is what sport you're going to play, but not playing is not a choice our kids have."

Jackson began to work out in the basement at 11, and by seventh grade he was lifting in the rec center before school and consuming between 6,000 and 8,000 calories each day. Dad would offer monetary incentives to reach lifting goals and if he didn't hit his mark, there was no consolation prize: Dad saved his money.

That approach is what has kept him grounded, said Brighton coach Ryan Bullett.

"They installed a work ethic in him that, boy, that's going to take him a long way."

Bullett recalls first seeing Barton at a workout before ninth grade. Jackson had fallen during basketball practice and broken both arms — "I wasn't always this athletic," he explained — and here he was with two casts on, ready to work.

"He never missed a practice, never missed a play," he said. "Never sat out anything. Never went home sick, didn't say 'I'm hurt,' never said a word."

By his sophomore year, Barton tipped the scales at 260, and Ilaisa Tuiaki, then an assistant at Utah State, told Bullett that USU would soon offer. Utah coaches (of whom Tuiaki is now one) beat the Aggies to the punch, and Barton said yes.

That didn't stop schools like Michigan and Oklahoma from trying to change his mind. "They were telling me, 'Don't you want to know what you're saying no to?'" Barton said.

Not really, no.

Mikka thought her son should check out his options, but she was won over when she heard former Lone Peak QB Chase Hansen speak to recruits about playing in front of friends and family.

If Barton was a reluctant bully at 9, he's not anymore. Before facing Colorado-bound defensive end Christian Shaver in the 5A semifinals last year, Barton said, "That kid's not going to beat me one time today."

"And he made sure of it," Bullett said.

But now that he's on the receiving end of mistreatment from sculpted defensive ends like Nate Orchard and Pita Taumoepenu, it's no longer just a matter of willpower.

"He's still a bit of a boy out there playing with men," Paul said. "He shaves once a week."

His son has a foot in both worlds, he said, living at the dorms where he's studying to become an engineer but coming home on weekends to do laundry and go on dates.

In other words, a Utah boy becoming a Utah man.

"Utah's just home for me," he said. "I've been loving it, so I have no regrets." —

Jackson Barton file

Height • 6-foot-6. Weight • 296. High school • Brighton

Accolades • First team 5A all-state as a junior and senior; rated a four-star recruit by Rivals and Scout; early graduate

Parents • Mom, Mikki Kane-Barton, is a member of the Crimson Club Hall of Fame for her accomplishments in volleyball (led the nation in blocks in 1993) and basketball (Western Athletic Conference player of the year in 1993). It was at the U. she met Jackson's dad, Paul, another two-sport athlete. Paul was a backup quarterback and a left-handed pitcher for the Utes, and would later be drafted and play one year of minor league ball for the Toronto Blue Jays. —

A closer look

In the mix at left tackle

Two of Jackson Barton's apparent contenders at the position have no more game experience than him: junior Andrew Albers and sophomore J.J. Dielman. Offensive line coach Jim Harding said it also hasn't been ruled out to have Jeremiah Poutasi move back to the left tackle, where he started as a true freshman, but thus far Poutasi has spent spring camp transitioning to left guard.






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