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Ute coaches happy to have Chase Hansen back on the field

Defensive back Chase Hansen runs during a University of Utah football practice in Salt Lake City on Thursday, March 09, 2017.
Defensive back Chase Hansen runs during a University of Utah football practice in Salt Lake City on Thursday, March 09, 2017.
Spenser Heaps,

SALT LAKE CITY — Chase Hansen, who has missed most of fall camp with a “lingering injury,” is back at practice this week and could be ready for Utah’s opening game next week against North Dakota.

When word came three weeks ago that the Ute safety wouldn’t be practicing because of an undisclosed injury for an uncertain amount of time, there was speculation that he wouldn’t be ready for the first game on Aug. 31.

Ute coaches aren’t guaranteeing that he’ll play next week, but they are happy with his progress.

"He looked good, with what limited reps he had,” said coach Kyle Whittingham. “He’s not going to do anything too competitive right now. It’s more footwork drills, individual stuff, but he looks good."

Sharrieff Shah, who coaches the cornerbacks but closely watches all of the defensive backs, was impressed with Hansen’s return this week.

“He looks good, running through individual drills and getting re-acclimated with the defense,” he said. “It’s important that we bring him along slowly and intelligently, not with standing how he may look and feel. We’re happy to have him back in the fold — he looks really good.”

Hansen, a former standout at Lone Peak High School, said he has been rehabbing “all day, every day,” and said it was “pretty tough,” but he is happy to be back on the field.

The 6-foot-3, 220-pound junior started all 13 games last year and led the team in tackles with 90 and also led the team with three forced fumbles and four fumble recoveries, while being all-Pac-12 honorable mention.

GROWING PAINS: Shah is working with this year with a lot of young cornerbacks, who, though talented, are experiencing growing pains.

“I don’t like a lot about them right now,” Shah said after Tuesday’s practice. “I think we’re not in the positions we need to be in. You hate to see the same mistake being made over and over again. I get frustrated, and I have to temper my own frustration because they are young. But I do love their effort.”

Shah praised junior Casey Hughes for bringing leadership to his young group. Hughes is a fourth-year junior from Las Vegas battling for one of the starting cornerback spots.

MORE PLAYERS: The roster was expanded from 105 to 120 Monday when classes started at the U. Although there are some good players among the new group who are largely non-scholarship players, Whittingham doesn’t expect a lot of them to contribute right away.

“Not right now,” he said. “I have to get a better feel for it.”

TICKETS AVAILABLE: Single-game tickets went on sale for Utah’s home games last week and some 400 tickets are still available for the North Dakota game. Fewer than 100 tickets remain for games against San Jose State, Stanford and Arizona State and approximately 200 tickets remain for the UCLA and Washington State games. The home finale against Colorado on Nov. 25 still has several hundred tickets available for purchase.

UTE NOTES: Kyle Fulks has been pegged as the main kickoff returner with Boobie Hobbs as the main punt returner. … Whittingham said the competition for placekicking duties between freshman Chayden Johnston and senior Matt Gay “may come right down to a couple of days before the first game.” … The Utes were second among the schools “also receiving votes” in the AP football poll that came out this week, in the No. 27 position. Earlier in the month, the Utes were ranked No. 25 in the coaches poll.