SPORTS

Utah College Players Could Hear Name Called At NFL Draft

Jan 15, 2019, 1:27 PM | Updated: Jan 16, 2019, 7:20 pm
Brigham Young Cougars linebacker Sione Takitaki (16) celebrates a stop against the California Golde...
Brigham Young Cougars linebacker Sione Takitaki (16) celebrates a stop against the California Golden Bears in Provo on Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018 (Jeff Allred, Deseret News)
(Jeff Allred, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – For many Beehive State college football players, their career is over. Some will have the opportunity to play in a senior class all-star game to show off their skills for the final time. Some of the players will have the opportunity to hear their name called during the NFL Draft beginning on April 25th.

Here’s a look at some of the most likely players to be suiting up at the next level:

Chase Hansen, LB, Utah

Hansen had a terrific senior season with a team-leading 114 tackles, 70 solo takedowns, five sacks and two interceptions in the regular season. For his efforts, he was named a first-team All-Pac-12 team selection. At 6-for-3 and 230 pounds, Hansen has all the measurables and instincts to play in the NFL.

Hansen did not finish his last year at Utah playing with his team in the final game, as an injury kept him out the Holiday Bowl. The Utes lost that game 31-20 to Northwestern after a major collapse in the third quarter.

The biggest thing that he has going against him, however, is his age. At 25 years old, Hansen is five years older than top linebacker prospect Devin White from LSU. It’s possible that NFL scouts may be weary of Hansen for that reason.

Cody Barton, LB, Utah

Along with Hansen, Barton formed what head coach Kyle Whittingham called the best linebacking duo he’s had in his time at Utah. Barton, who measures at 6-foot-2 and 230 pounds was named an honorable mention All-Pac-12 selection.

Barton excelled at dropping back and recognizing the difference in rushing and passing plays extremely early.

The Draft Network said the following about Barton, while projecting him as a fourth-round draft pick.

“Barton has the tape of a low-end NFL starter, and if he can test well enough at the NFL Combine to clear benchmarks, teams will likely draft him hoping that future will come to pass.”

Marquise Blair, S, Utah

Known for big hits, including some that have gotten him ejected from games for targeting, Utah safety Marquise Blair is another departing senior from Utah who could have his name called during the NFL Draft.

It was said during the broadcast of the Pac-12 Championship Game against Washington that San Francisco 49ers general manager John Lynch was interested in Blair.

That’s quite a compliment, coming from one of the hardest-hitting safeties in NFL history. Lynch played the position in the NFL for 14 seasons and won a Super Bowl with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Time will tell if the Niners will call Blair’s name on draft day.

Sione Takitaki, LB, BYU

Cougar fans will likely forever link the song “Taki Taki” by DJ Snake with the athletic linebacker from Fontana, Calif. The song played every time Takitaki made a play on the ball and it happened a lot.

The senior led the Cougars in tackles with 118, including 74 solo tackles. He had a dominant outing in BYU’s convincing win in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl with 19 tackles and a sack.

USA Today’s Gavino Borquez had this to say about Takitaki prior to the bowl game:

“He provides ideal pass rush off the edge and appears flexible when bending the corner, and can win with his hands as well. The BYU product is a disciplined defender that is cognizant of his run gap responsibilities and edge containment.

His versatility and athleticism could surely get him drafted on Day 3 of the draft, or a priority free agent.”

Austin Hoyt, OL, BYU

Before the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl win over Western Michigan, BYU head coach Kalani Sitake joined Hoyt and Takitaki in a pre-game press conference. The head coach stated his admiration for his two players in their growth as men and as football players.

He continued to state that he thought that both Takitaki and Hoyt could play at the next level. The question is, do NFL scouts agree?

At 6-foot-8 and 315 pounds, Hoyt is a monster and anchored the BYU offensive line all season. He is a bit older, due to having served a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, but it seems that linemen aren’t usually as penalized for that with the scouts as much as position players are.

He also has good mobility for a guy his size as he was named an all-league selection in basketball in high school.

Corbin Kaufusi, DL, BYU

Look up “heart” in the dictionary and you’ll likely find a photo and definition of BYU’s Corbin Kaufusi. After sustaining a severe ankle injury in BYU’s win over New Mexico State, Sitake ruled his star defensive lineman out for the rest of the season, effectively ending his career as a Cougar.

Kaufusi, however, had other plans. With heavy casts, lots of tape and even more grit, the senior fought through injury and pain to play his final game in the rivalry matchup against Utah.

“They said I can’t hurt it worse, so as long as I didn’t mind being taped up like crazy (around the ankle), put a metal brace on (the elbow) and do what I can,” said Kaufusi, after the game. “I felt pretty good playing. There were times where I felt it a little bit.”

With size at 6-foot-9 and a heart as big as the gridiron itself, Kaufusi will take his talents to the next level. It is hoped that NFL scouts won’t be dismayed by the amount of damage that he sustained in his final season at BYU.

Darwin Thompson, RB, Utah State

While he lacks the size of a typical NFL player, Thompson put up big numbers for the Aggies in a fantastic 11-2 season for the program.

After surpassing the 1,000 yard mark and scoring 16 touchdowns last season, Thompson, who was named a second-team All-Mountain West Conference selection, decided to forgo his senior season and enter the NFL Draft early.

He didn’t do so without consulting incoming Utah State head coach Gary Andersen.

“In these situations, we have and always will work to educate young men and provide them with accurate information,” USU head coach Gary Andersen said in a press release. “Darwin and his family believe moving on is best for him and his future. We will support Darwin in his quest to play in the NFL and wish him all the best moving forward.”

Dax Raymond, TE, Utah State

Thompson isn’t the only Aggie to leave early for the NFL Draft. Formerly a star at Timpview High, Raymond also entered his name in this year’s draft after his junior season.

Though he scored just three touchdowns in this time at USU, it is probably his blocking abilities that will get Raymond noticed by NFL scouts. Having already graduated he’ll have an opportunity to showcase his abilities at the Senior Bowl on Jan. 26th.

In both his sophomore and junior years, Raymond was honored as a honorable mention All-Mountain West Conference selection.

Ron’quavion Tarver, WR, Utah State

After a strong senior season at Utah State, Tarver will also throw his hat in the ring at the NFL Draft.

Tarver had a career high 66 receptions for 709 yards and eight TDs while catching passes from quarterback Jordan Love.

He has the size at 6-foot-3, 215 pounds to play in the NFL, and his performance in the East-West Shrine Game will likely help his NFL Draft stock.

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