From QB to Safety — Hansen Dominates for the Defense

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Utah Football sophomore strong safety Chase Hansen (22) makes an interception and runs the ball 30 yards during the game vs. the Washington Huskies at Rice-Eccles Stadium on Saturday, October 29, 2016

When Chase Hansen originally committed to playing football at Utah, BYU fans were hopeful that after serving a two-year mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, he would switch gears and he would trade in the red for the navy blue. But when Hansen came home from Australia, he said it was “weird” when everyone was telling him where he was going to go.

Hansen, whose father and uncle played for the Cougars, remained a Ute, and upon arrival in Salt Lake City he was immediately thrown into the quarterback conversation along with Travis Wilson and Kendal Thompson. He didn’t win the starting job, and being a couple of spots behind that starting role, the coaching staff was hopeful he would receive some playing time on the field at some point in the 2015 season.

Most people assumed that Hansen would only come into the game if the Utes had built a large lead, however and it was more or less expected that he would be in the spotlight in the following season. But things haven’t quite played out that way.

The Utes dealt with an onslaught of injuries to the safety position last season. They needed someone to step up, and Hansen was eager to help out the team in any capacity.

Hansen didn’t just want to be the team’s starting quarterback — he wanted to help his team win. So when the coaches asked him if he would be willing to switch positions, for the time being at least, he was more than happy to help.

Hansen didn’t immediately get the starting role at safety. Being brand-new to the position, he didn’t expect anything more. But in his first game at safety against Oregon State, Hansen played well enough, he registered his first career sack, that he was given the starting role the next week against Washington.

In that game, Hansen forced a fumble, and he recorded 11 tackles — the most of any Ute player that day. However, in the final seconds of the game in Seattle, Hansen would suffer a season-ending injury.

At that point, Hansen and his coaches weren’t too sure if whether he would make the switch to defense, or if he would go back to the position he had played for most of his football career.

Head coach Kyle Whittingham mentioned over and over again that it would ultimately be Hansen’s decision. When spring camp opened up ahead of the 2016 season, there was a three-way race for that starting quarterback job, but Hansen already had his position secure at safety.

Towards the end of the fall camp, fifth-year senior Brandon Cox decided to leave the Utah football program after being placed behind Troy Williams and Tyler Huntley, and this left, and still does leave, the Utes a bit shorthanded at the quarterback position. Whittingham mentioned earlier in the season that Hansen may work his way into that equation, and he would possibly be given some reps on the offense.

Things have seemed to work out for Hansen on the other side of the ball. However he has had a pair of interceptions this season, and he leads the team with a total of 64 tackles (37 solo tackles and 27 assisted).

“Chase has had an exceptional year, no surprise,” Whittingham said. “We saw what he did last year against Washington, and he was the best defensive player on the field production-wise. He was all over the place. We felt that it was going to be a natural transition for him, and he’s done a great job.”

But there was a bit of a learning curve.

“The beginning of the year I still didn’t feel as comfortable as I do now, but I feel like I’ve learned a lot as the season has progressed just through experience, a lot of it through mistakes,” Hansen said. “I’ve been able to make some tackles, but I’ve also missed some tackles.”

Hansen does tend to agree with Whittingham, though, and the transition has been fairly smooth on the whole. Hansen and the other safeties do their best to make things confusing for the other team’s quarterback by running around the field. With his previous experience at that position, Hansen uses it to his advantage.

Granted, Hansen may not always know what the opposing team’s quarterback is thinking, but he does tend to have a pretty good grasp on what it might be. It helps him read the quarterback better than most other safeties, and it gives him a certain edge.

“I think more than anything it’s been trying to get in the head of the quarterback, and trying to think about what he’s seeing,” Hansen said.

Hansen is enjoying his role on the defense, and he expects to keep contributing to the team as a safety, causing turnovers and getting to the opposing team’s quarterback… For now, at least.

k.brenneisen@dailyutahchronicle.com

@kbrenneisen

Kim Brenneisen
Kim Brenneisen is currently serving as the print managing editor for The Daily Utah Chronicle, but she has been on staff for three years in a variety of roles. She interned for ESPN this past summer, was a student writer for the NCAA and interned at MLB.com in 2016.

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