JACKSONVILLE — His strengths are many and obvious — on and off the field.
Speaking of Jaguars rookie linebacker Devin Lloyd, University of Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham points that out. It’s not just that the first round draft pick is really good, it’s that he’s really good in so many areas.
“He’s the whole package,” Whittingham said.
Whittingham, Utah’s head coach since 2004, recently spoke to jaguars.com — shortly after the Jaguars selected Lloyd with the No. 27 pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. The Jaguars traded Lloyd up 33 overall and see him as a versatile, a dynamic player who will fit perfectly with head coach Doug Pederson’s culture and defensive coordinator Mike Caldwell’s multi-layered scheme.
Whittingham sees Lloyd similarly.
“He’s a great person,” Whittingham said. “Obviously, he’s a great player. He’s been such an integral part of our team. He’s one of those guys that doesn’t come along very often. He’s played at the highest level on the field, he’s been great at leading us.
“He’s been doing things right the whole time he’s been here in Utah.”
And while Lloyd still had one more season of eligibility at Utah, Whittingham said he absolutely made the right decision to declare for the NFL draft.
“His stock was extremely high and he accomplished almost everything he set out to do here in Utah,” Whittingham said. “He’s a guy we would have liked to have come back for another year, but it didn’t make any sense.”
Lloyd, a consensus All-American in 2021 who played at Otay Ranch (Calif.) High School, was truly elite on the field in Utah. But Whittingham said his career has largely been defined by a work ethic and leadership beyond the ordinary — leadership exemplified by Lloyd’s response to the deaths of two Utah teammates, cornerback Aaron Lowe and punt returner Ty Jordan, in gun violence incidents.
Lloyd’s posthumous role in the Utah program was well-documented leading up to the draft — Whittingham reiterated Lloyd’s importance to his teammates, the Utah program and the Utes, who in 2021 had one of the most successful seasons in program history.
“I don’t want to take anything away from his game because he’s a tremendous player,” Whittingham said. “But he’s a tremendous individual and a guy who’s been invaluable to us. We went through some really tough stuff last year and he was at the forefront as a leader to help us get through it.”
Lloyd (6-foot-2, 237 pounds), who played four seasons at Utah, had 255 career tackles — including 149 solo — with 16.5 sacks and 43 tackles for loss. He had 22 tackles for loss and eight sacks last season.
“He’s got a great trigger and when he does, he goes and gets it,” Whittingham said. “He’s been fully prepared every Saturday and he’s got great instincts as well. He’s one of those guys who just has a nose for the ball and is a great predictor. When he sees something, he goes and takes it. There’s no hesitation. he goes and takes it.”
Lloyd, the Pacific 12 Defensive Player of the Year in 2021 and a first-team All-Pac 12 selection in each of the past two seasons, plays with speed and awareness, which Whittingham says comes in part from being a “student of the game.” in every sense of the word.”
“It’s a combination of athleticism and absolute fitness every week,” Whittingham said. “He’s a self-made guy. I believe his best days are ahead of him. He didn’t play any linebacker in high school. He came to us as a guard and receiver. He was a great basketball player.
“He started at Square One as our linebacker and became one of the best linebackers in the country.”
Whittingham said Lloyd thus spent “as much or more time in the film room than any quarterback we’ve had here.”
“He’s got a great football IQ,” Whittingham said. “I’d come into the building and sometimes I’d be here until 9:30, 10 at night. I’d go down and he’d be in the movie room by himself watching a movie on Monday night, Tuesday night or Wednesday night. He came in with a burning desire to be big.
“His work ethic is second to none. He was a very driven young man.”
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