Nick Wagner, Deseret News
Utah safety Chase Hansen closes in on Arizona quarterback Brandon Dawkins during the second half of a game in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Oct. 8, 2016. Utah battled back from a first-half deficit to defeat Arizona, 36-23.
Sometimes when I get in trouble it's when I try to do too much and so I've got to make sure I continue to try to play within myself and in my responsibility. —Chase Hansen

SALT LAKE CITY — Chase Hansen has caught on to this safety thing pretty well. The former quarterback enters Saturday’s game at UCLA as Utah’s leader in solo tackles (23) and co-leader in total stops (43). He also tops the team in quarterback hurries (2) and ranks among the front-runners in tackles for loss, forced fumbles, fumble recoveries, interceptions, pass breakups and sacks.

“Chase has had an exceptional year. No surprise,” said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham, who added that Hansen showed it last season when he was the most productive defensive player on the field in a 34-23 win at Washington. “He was all over the place.”

Hansen’s debut as a starting safety ended on a tough note, however. He broke his leg on the final play from scrimmage after making 11 tackles, breaking up a pass and forcing a fumble.

The sophomore has started every game this season, helping the Utes to a 6-1 record and a 3-1 start in Pac-12 play. The move to defense, Whittingham added, has been a natural transition for Hansen and he’s done a great job.

Hansen and teammate Marcus Williams may be the nation’s best safety duo. They’ve combined to make 75 tackles, four interceptions, four pass breakups, three fumble recoveries and two forced fumbles for 18th-ranked Utah.

Williams, though, suffered an injury in last week’s 19-14 win at Oregon State and isn’t listed on this week’s depth chart. Hansen had eight tackles with an interception and a sack against the Beavers. Junior Jordan Fogal stepped in for Williams and Whittingham said he did a good job.

“So if Jordan’s out there with him again then they’ll work fine together,” he continued.

Hansen agreed. He said his responsibilities are essentially the same and that Fogal is a "baller," a guy he trusts a lot out on the field,

“So it’s not like a whole lot changes for me. It’s just kind of next guy up and I’ve got to do my job,” Hansen explained. “Sometimes when I get in trouble it’s when I try to do too much and so I’ve got to make sure I continue to try to play within myself and in my responsibility.”

Despite his personal success, Hansen is far from satisfied.

“I just keep thinking about all the things I need to improve on, and that’s the kind of mindset that coach (Morgan) Scalley encourages so that we try to get better each week,” Hansen said. “So I’m not really focused on where I am, but rather where I want to be.”

Hansen added that the journey is fun. Now, though, it’s just about trying to stay healthy and do his job.


No. 18/19 Utah (6-1, 3-1) at UCLA (3-4, 1-3)

Saturday, 2 p.m.


Radio: ESPN 700AM


Twitter: @DirkFacer