Following a physical rivalry game for the Utes against BYU, there may be reason to question the availability of starting strong safety Chase Hansen this weekend.
Hansen, who missed most of preseason with an undisclosed injury, returned to practice the week before the season opener against North Dakota and has played in both games this season.
However, during the final 20 minutes of practice that media are allowed to observe on Tuesday, Hansen was not present. A review of Saturday’s game shows that he was not on the field for BYU’s final possession.
“I’m okay. I’m a little banged up, but everyone is,” Hansen said Monday. “I’m just trying to find a way to get healthy and stay healthy.”
Hansen then joked that staying healthy is “nearly impossible.”
When asked about Hansen starting this weekend against San Jose State, Utes coach Kyle Whittingham said, “No comment. We’ll see what happens.”
Hansen, the lone returning starter in the secondary, is leading the team with 14 tackles through two games this season. If Hansen is out or limited, that could mean more playing time for safeties Marquise Blair and/or Philip Afia.
Blair, the primary backup at strong safety, has rotated in during both games this season. Corrion Ballard, the starter at free safety, played strong safety in preseason camp with Ballard out, and Afia got first-team time at free safety during camp.
San Jose State’s first-year defensive coordinator Derrick Odum is a former Ute player and assistant coach. Odum, who graduated in 1993, came with SJSU with first-year coach Brent Brennan from Oregon State’s staff, where both worked under former Utes assistant and former Utah State head coach Gary Andersen.
“I was just really impressed with everything from his way of teaching and working with young people and then also his knowledge and his demeanor,” Brennan said. “He’s not an emotional guy. We’ve got a young and emotional staff, and I needed somebody on this staff to be even-keeled and patient. D-O gives us good balance that way.”
Odum is probably the second-best known assistant on the SJSU. Running backs coach Alonzo Carter, an Oakland native and highly-decorated high school and junior college coach in California, once toured as a backup dancer with MC Hammer in the 1990s.
Odds and ends
Quarterback Tyler Huntley’s 300-yard passing game against BYU marked the first for a Utes passer since Travis Wilson in 2014. … Running back Zack Moss’ first collegiate start came last season against San Jose State, and he rushed for 95 yards in that game. … The Utes will honor members of the Ute Indian Tribe at Saturday night’s game as part of the “Ute Proud” theme for the night. … The Navy skydiving team, The Leapfrogs, will dive in and deliver the game ball into Rice-Eccles Stadium. … Wallace Stegner Academy will receiver a $10,000 check from Utah Athletics in honor of the Extra Yard for Teachers program.