Chase Hansen, Utah's leading tackler, out indefinitely

Chase Hansen led Utah in tackles in 2016. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

It looks like Utah could be without one of its best defensive players for quite some time.

In a press release about the first full week of preseason camp, Utah said that strong safety Chase Hansen is “unavailable to practice until further notice.” Utah is typically close-lipped about player injuries, unless they are season-ending. Utes coach Kyle Whittingham didn’t offer many specifics Monday night. Still, the fact that Utah felt the need to include the information at all could mean the injury is fairly significant.

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Hansen was an honorable mention Pac-12 selection for the Utes in 2016 when he started all 13 games as a sophomore. Hansen finished the year with a team-leading 90 tackles, 12 passes defended and nine pass breakups. He also tallied 7.5 tackles for loss, three forced fumbles, four fumble recoveries, three interceptions and one sack.

When the Utes put out their preseason depth chart, Marquise Blair, a transfer from Dodge City Community College, was listed as the No. 2 strong safety behind Hansen. Blair was a first-team junior college All-American in 2016 when he totaled 100 tackles and 24 tackles for loss. Blair also had three sacks, four interceptions, five pass breakups, four forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries.

Elsewhere in the release, Utah said Troy Williams, Tyler Huntley and Cooper Bateman continue to battle for the starting quarterback role with Williams and Huntley “getting more reps.” Though Williams started in 2016, the program said “there is no timetable to name a starter.”

Utah brought in Troy Taylor from Eastern Washington to spice up the offense. Whittingham spoke highly of the addition of Taylor at Pac-12 Media Days last week. Taylor has brought a more pass-happy offense to the Utes. At quarterback, Whittingham said Williams came out of spring as the top option at QB, but the competition would remain open.

“(Williams) had an outstanding spring, as did the other two behind him — Tyler Huntley and Cooper Bateman. They came out of spring one, two, three, in that order,” Whittingham said. “Tight enough race that those three guys will continue to get reps at least for the first week or two in fall camp, and then we have to make a decision to get things pared down to the two guys who are going to be getting all the reps and the one guy who is going to be the guy.”

Utah opens its season at home against North Dakota on Aug. 31. The Utes went 9-4 in 2016.

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Sam Cooper is a writer for the Yahoo Sports blogs. Have a tip? Email him or follow him on Twitter!