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Utes must move forward without Chase Hansen

Published July 31, 2017 10:08 pm

U. football notes • Hard-hitting junior has lingering injury.
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University of Utah star strong safety Chase Hansen, the most experienced player in what will be an almost entirely new defensive backfield, will be out indefinitely.

The Utes athletic department announced Monday morning via email that Hansen would not be available to practice "until further notice." Coach Kyle Whittingham said after practice that Hansen, who did participate in offseason workouts, would sit out due to a lingering injury that required downtime.

"I hope he's there for Game 1, that's where we're at with it," Whittingham said. "He's a tough kid. He's proven to be a fast healer in the past, and there's nobody that's going to work harder in the rehab than he will."



Hansen, a hard-hitting 6-foot-3, 220-pound junior, went into camp as the lone returning starter in a five-man Utes secondary (two cornerbacks and a nickleback along with two safeties).

Hansen came to Utah as a state championship-winning quarterback from Lone Peak High School, the Utah Gatorade Player of the Year and a Parade All-American. Hansen played in two games as a quarterback in 2015 as well as seven at strong safety (one start) before sustaining a season-ending ankle injury.

Last year in his first full season on defense, Hansen led the Utes in tackles and started all 13 games, including one at linebacker. He ranked second in the Pac-12 and tied for second nationally in fumble recoveries (four), intercepted three passes and scored touchdowns on both an interception return against Arizona State and fumble recovery against Oregon.

"I think it's a big blow," Utes senior defensive lineman Filipo Mokofisi said. "He's one of our leaders in the back end, the most experienced person in the back end, so that chemistry when he comes back is going to be a little bit off. But it'll be a huge blow, but hopefully we can get the other guys up to speed."

The Utes lost some depth at the safety position when Jordan Fogal decided to leave as a graduate transfer this spring, landing at Colorado State. Fogal had been the primary backup to Marcus Williams and made two starts last season.

When asked how the Utes will fill in for Hansen's absence, defensive coordinator Morgan Scalley replied, "How we've always done it. Someone steps up. Right now it's Marquise Blair, Philip Afia. Philip Afia looks as good as I've ever seen him, so we're really excited for his progression."

Junior college transfer Corrion Ballard impressed in spring ball and went into camp projected to start at free safety. Scalley said Ballard has been working with the first team at strong safety, with Blair rotating in behind Ballard. Afia has been getting time with the first team at free safety.

Blair joined the Utes this preseason from Dodge City Community College in Kansas, where he 'd been a First-Team NJCAA All-American as a rover/outside linebacker. He's been leaning on Hansen, Ballard and Afia for help as he learns a new position.

"I'm just learning right now," Blair said. "You've just got to learn fast. Really, it's a fast tempo. It's just learning where I'm at, supposed to be."

Happy Holliday

Utes wide receivers coach Guy Holliday expressed optimism that junior Raelon Singleton would be on the field within the next week. Singleton, the team's top returning receiver from last season (27 receptions, 464 yards, four touchdowns), has not been able to participate in preseason practice thus far.

"I think Realon has been a leader in the offseason," Holliday said. "He's really put a lot into it. Unfortunately, he tweaked a soft tissue muscle. He'll be back here within, hopefully, three or four days. I'm excited to see him."

It's baby steps for QB Shelley

Freshman quarterback Jason Shelley, ranked 12th nationally among dual-threat quarterbacks by 247Sports in his high school class, got some reps in the team portion of practice open to the media on Monday. Utes offensive coordinator Troy Taylor said they wanted Shelley to get some work in, but they plan to redshirt Shelley this season.

lworthy@sltrib.com

Twitter: LWorthySports

— Chris Kamrani contributed to this story

 

 

 

 

 

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