Utah football coach Kyle Whittingham responded to a question about UCLA linebacker Anthony Barr last October by describing him as "the best defender we’ve faced this year, without question."
That statement got some attention, considering the Utes had gone against BYU’s Kyle Van Noy. But the NFL draft validated Whittingham’s judgment, as the Minnesota Vikings made Barr the No. 9 pick in Thursday’s first round.
In a 34-27 defeat of Utah at Rice-Eccles Stadium, Barr was credited with five solo tackles. Three of the tackles were for lost yardage, including two sacks.
Four other players who faced Utah schools were drafted in the first round. Utah State is the only team that can claim having beaten any of them in 2013.
• Zack Martin, Notre Dame (No. 16 to Dallas)
As an offensive guard, Martin played in all 52 games of his Notre Dame career. The Fighting Irish’s offensive line was impressive in wins over BYU in both 2012 and ‘13, helping to account for a total of 505 rushing yards. Last November, Notre Dame rushed and passed for exactly 235 yards each and the line didn’t allow a sack.
• Brandin Cooks, Oregon State (No. 20 to New Orleans)
Cooks produced one of the most impressive individual performances against Utah last season. In the Beavers’ 51-48 overtime victory at Rice-Eccles Stadium in September, he caught nine passes for 210 yards and three touchdowns, including the game winner on the final play.
• Deone Bucannon, Washington State (No. 27 to Arizona)
Of the five draftees mentioned here, Bucannon made the least impact against a Utah school. The WSU cornerback recorded six tackles in the Cougars’ victory at Pullman, Wash., in November, but was not credited with any pass breakups. Utah’s Adam Schulz passed for 347 yards.
• Jimmie Ward, Northern Illinois (No. 30 to San Francisco)
Utah State beat Ward’s Huskies 21-14 in the Poinsettia Bowl in San Diego, but the NIU safety had a solid game. He made six tackles, intercepted one of Darell Garretson’s passes and deflected another.
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