SALT LAKE CITY — For the first time in his Ute career, linebacker Chase Hansen has been named Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week.
The honor, announced early Monday afternoon, rewards Hansen for his game-changing performance in Utah’s 17-6 victory over Northern Illinois.
He finished with 12 tackles, including two and a half for a loss, had two sacks, recovered a fumble, and recorded the game-sealing pick-six with just under three minutes remaining in the game.
“Chase Hansen was a beast,” Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said. “He was all over the place.”
The Defensive Player of the Week designation is simply confirmation of what Whittingham and the Utes already knew — Hansen was born to be a linebacker.
“He’s a prototypical linebacker when you talk about playing at the next level,” Whittingham said.
The former Deseret News’ Mr. Football (2011) has made multiple position changes during his time up on the hill, but the move to linebacker was seemingly inevitable.
“He spent a great deal of time as a safety down in the box, with a linebacker’s job description,” Whittingham said. “He has the size and strength, he’s 230-plus pounds. He’s got great speed and he’s instinctive and tough. He had all of those qualities as a safety, he has just transferred them closer to the line of scrimmage.
“It isn’t an easy transition, not everyone can do it, but Chase has the skill set and makeup to be successful there and that has helped us as a defense.”
In other conference news, Colorado receiver Laviska Shenault was named the Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Week for his performance in the Buffaloes' thrilling 33-28 victory over Nebraska, while Arizona State’s Brandon Ruiz took home special teams honors thanks to his showing in the Sun Devils' late-night upset of No. 15 Michigan State.
Aside from Hansen, Britain Covey was the only other Ute in consideration for a player-of-the-week designation, thanks to his strong showing (eight receptions for 129 yards).
CHANGING OF THE GUARD?: Wide receiver play has been a focus early this season and dropped passes deserved a point of emphasis.
As such, certain more sure-handed wideouts have begun to make a case for more playing time, namely Jaylen Dixon, Solomon Enis and Bronson Boyd.
“Jaylen has earned the right to play more and he will play more,” Whittingham said, following Dixon’s two catch, 50-yard outing against the Huskies.
“Solomon will also continue to be integrated into what we are doing and Bronson Boyd made a nice catch on the sideline there in the game and he will get more time.
“The production, other than (Covey), has not been where we need it to be,” Whittingham added. “Brit has been very good, outstanding for us, but it has to be more than just the Britain Covey show. We are starting to see some separation, starting to see who deserves more playing time.”
BERNARD UPDATE: Linebacker Francis Bernard has yet to make much of an impact for the Utes, but it is only a matter of time.
“He is very comfortable (in the defense) right now,” Whittingham said. “He has been here for over a month now, he’s just behind two really productive and outstanding linebackers (in Hansen and Cody Barton). There isn’t a lot of opportunities yet for him, but before it's over I’m sure he’ll have an opportunity to make an impact.”