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Utah football: Utes pack potent one-two punch at linebacker

SHARE Utah football: Utes pack potent one-two punch at linebacker

SALT LAKE CITY — Starting linebackers Cody Barton and Chase Hansen were quite productive in Utah’s 17-6 win at Northern Illinois. Barton made a game-high 13 tackles, while Hansen had 12 stops along with two sacks, a fumble recovery and a 40-yard interception return for a touchdown in the closing minutes — earning him Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week honors.

“All those plays he made were awesome,” Barton said. “I was so happy for him. It’s awesome to see him make those plays and, you know, hopefully in the future if I make some plays like that he’ll be happy for me.”

The duo, who are team captains, are friendly competitors. Barton joked that he led Hansen into the end zone on the pick-six to show he was faster.

“In a way we’re both competing to see who can get more tackles. But we both want to show off our speed, show off our smartness and stuff, and see who can get to the ball first,” Barton said. “So it’s a great unsaid competition throughout the game. It’s just extra motivation, I guess, when we’re playing.”

Barton added that if a drive gets long and they’re getting kind of tired, the internal competition keeps them going and it’s fun.

“Both of them are examples of what happens when studying football means something to you,” said defensive coordinator Morgan Scalley. “Where you take your downtime and you’re not playing video games, you’re not messing around, you’re actually using it as kind of a stepping stone for that next level, right? This is a profession to them and they’re all about business.”

SECRET’S OUT: Washington’s roster includes three players from Utah — sophomore receiver Ty Jones (Provo), freshman linebacker MJ Tafisi (Alta) and freshman defensive lineman Sam Taimani (East).

“I think those high school coaches over there in Utah really coach those guys well, very prideful about football,” said Huskies coach Chris Petersen. “It shows up in Utah’s program themselves, the University of Utah, and there’s just been a lot of good players coming from that state.”

Utah coach Kyle Whittingham noted things have changed dramatically in recent years. He estimated that the number of Division I players in the state may be four or five times greater than his first season with the Utes 25 years ago.

It’s been a big positive for us,” said Whittingham, who added that Utah’s roster is littered with in-state players including standouts like Hansen and wide receiver Britain Covey. “We haven’t been able to get every single player, nobody ever gets every single player in their own state. I don’t know anybody that does that.”

EXTRA POINTS: Whittingham said that just about every player that is tagged to be a redshirt, or is on the fence to do so, has not played in Utah’s first two outings. Under NCAA rules, they can appear in up to four games and still redshirt ... The game will be the 53rd consecutive sellout at Rice-Eccles Stadium ... Fans are encouraged to wear black attire to the game. It’s the program’s 11th “blackout” outing ... Covey holds a slim lead over running back Zack Moss when it comes to all-purpose yards, 256-246.

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No. 10 Washington (1-1) at Utah (2-0)

  • Rice-Eccles Stadium
  • Saturday, 8 p.m.
  • TV: ESPN
  • Radio: ESPN 700AM