Utah defense thriving with familiar assistant

Bradlee Anae, seen here in a game last season, has 5.5 tackles for loss in 2018.Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

Gary Andersen's return to Salt Lake City boosts Utes' DL

Utah's defense is No. 10 nationally, allowing 296.4 yards a game, and one of the big reasons why is defensive line coach Gary Andersen and his standout pupil, defensive end Bradlee Anae.

Anae, a junior, made five tackles, including three for loss, two of them sacks, in Utah's 40-21 upset of No. 14 Stanford in Palo Alto, Calif., last week. He also forced a fumble and broke up a pass.

Utah (3-2 overall, 1-2 Pac-12) hosts Arizona (3-3, 2-1) on Friday night, possessing the No. 3 defense in the nation against the run (75.4 yards per game).

"(Anae) played his best game of the season (against Stanford) without a doubt. He was our in-house player of the game," Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said Monday. "He made very few mistakes and had a big impact on the game. He is a talented player and we expect a lot of production out of him week in and week out."

Anae, the nephew of former Arizona offensive line coach Robert Anae (currently the offensive coordinator at Virginia), is tied for third in the Pac-12 with four sacks. His 5.5 tackles for loss puts him in a tie for seventh.

"Sacks are always fun to get and they are like the result of everything that you do as a defensive end, especially," Anae told the Deseret News. "It's good when it comes, so hopefully it still keeps coming."

Utah's defense, with Andersen helping as an assistant after head coaching stints at Utah State, Wisconsin and Oregon State, also boasts prolific senior tackler Chase Hansen at linebacker and Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week Jaylon Johnson, a sophomore cornerback.

Johnson returned an interception 100 yards for a touchdown and made seven tackles against the Cardinal.

Hansen led Utah with nine tackles, including a sack and two tackles for loss.

Whittingham noted Andersen's impact on the Utes as being significant because "he is one of the best defensive line coaches in the country." Andersen, a Utah alum, was the Utes defensive coordinator from 2005 to 2008 before becoming Utah State's head coach.

"He has been a great addition to our staff," Whittingham said. "He was a successful coordinator while he was here and he has always had his hand in the defense since he left here.

"He has been a huge help to both (defensive coordinator) Morgan (Scalley) and myself as a sounding board and as a guy that has a lot of experience. It has been exactly what I had envisioned it to be."

PLAYER NOTES

--QB Tyler Huntley went 17 of 21 for 199 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions in last week's win over Stanford. For the season, Huntley has completed 94 of 150 passes (62.7 percent) for 1,020 yards, with five touchdowns and two interceptions. He has also rushed for 143 yards on 64 carries with two touchdowns.

--RB Zack Moss became the 14th player in Utah history to reach 2,000 yards rushing in a career with 160 yards on 20 carries with two touchdowns against Stanford. It was his third 100-yard rushing game this season (including 150 vs. Weber State and 106 vs. Washington State) and eighth in his career. His 160 yards last week was the second-highest single-game rushing total of his career.

--CB Jaylon Johnson had a 100-yard interception return in the second quarter against Stanford, the third 100-yard interception return in Utah's history (the others were Harold Lusk vs. Colorado State in 1994 and Gary Barker vs. BYU in 1967). It is the longest interception of the year in the NCAA. It was his first pick of the season and his second career pick. Johnson beat out Arizona safety Scottie Young Jr. (two INTs, one returned for TD) for Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week honors.

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