SALT LAKE CITY — When it comes to linebacker Chase Hansen and this weekend’s NFL draft, Utah coach Kyle Whittingham doesn’t hold anything back.
“Whoever gets Chase Hansen is going to be elated with what he does and what he brings to the table,” Whittingham said. “The guy has it all. He’s the whole package. He’s got size, speed, quickness, toughness, intelligence. He’s got it all.”
Hansen, who earned All-America recognition last season, made 114 tackles (22 for loss and five sacks) in 13 starts for the Utes. He missed the Holiday Bowl with an injury and hasn’t been able to participate in pre-draft workouts while getting back to full strength. As such, his draft stock has likely slipped. NFL.com projects Hansen to go sometime in the sixth round.
“I know it was unfortunate he wasn’t able to work out for the scouts prior to the draft. But all they’ve got to do is put on the tape,” Whittingham said. “If somebody doesn’t take a chance on him and draft him, I think that’s insane. But whoever does get him, by whatever means they do get him, he’s going to impress.”
Hansen is among a group of former Utes in the draft mix. The others listed on the NFL’s prospect list include safety Marquise Blair, linebacker Cody Barton, punter Mitch Wishnowsky, kicker Matt Gay, offensive lineman Jackson Barton and safety Corrion Ballard.
Whittingham is guessing that a minimum of two or three guys will get drafted. However, he added that as many as five or six could get calls.
“You never really know for sure. You hear all kinds of things and you get get scouts calling you and general managers telling you who they like and how high they are on your guys,” Whittingham explained. “Then they don’t draft them and they get drafted by guys you don’t even hear from. So it’s tough to predict.”
NFL.com's Lance Zierlein has Blair going first for the Utes. The 6-foot-2, 195-pound all-conference safety is projected to go in the third or fourth rounds.
“He’s a great kid, a great person. He is quiet. He’s very unassuming and kind of keeps to himself,” Whittingham said. “But he’s all business on the field. He’s got a lot of ability. He’s physical. He can run. He’s really a prototypical NFL safety and I think that’s why there’s so many teams that have interest in him.”
The former junior college All-American made 59 tackles and two interceptions in 2018.8 comments on this story
Another intriguing storyline for Utah involves specialists Wishnowsky and Gay. The Utes became the first team in college football history to have winners of the Ray Guy (punter) and Lou Groza (kicker) awards on the same roster.
“We had the best tandem in the country,” Whittingham said. “Our guys are special.”
Zierlein has Wishnowsky going in the fifth round. Gay is tabbed as a seventh rounder or as an undrafted free agent.
Whittingham noted that a lot of times it’s best for specialists to pick and choose opportunities in the NFL.
Jackson Barton and Ballard, meanwhile, are ticketed to earn camp invites if not drafted.
The NFL draft runs through Saturday.