The 2014 season was one for the ages for former Utah defensive end Nate Orchard. The Highland high school grad was able to put it all together at the defensive end position after arriving on campus three years prior as wide receiver. Orchard helped Utah lead the nation as a team in sacks and earn the moniker "Sack Lake City" during the 2014 season. Orchard was major focal point for all opposing teams Utah faced and single handily effected the scheme of opposing offenses throughout the course of the season.
Orchard started all thirteen games for the Utes in 2014, and was the leader of a defense that ranked first in the nation in sacks, with 55 total team sacks. Orchard himself was second in the nation in sacks with 18.5 trailing only linebacker Hau'oli Kikaha of Washington by .5 sacks. Orchard did however set the school record for sacks in a season by a Utah player and also set the school record for total yards of loss on sacks with 118 yards. He also finished first in the nation in sacks per game with 1.46.
His best game took place on October 4th at UCLA, where he terrorized Brett Hundley, sacking him 4 times and recording 11 total tackles. His 4 sacks tied the school record for most sacks in a game and his 11 tackles were a career high. The disruption caused to the UCLA offense, played a huge role in the outcome of the game as Hundley was never able to get comfortable. Orchard cleaned up in the weekly awards department following the UCLA win, earning the Pac-12 defensive player of the week, the Bronco Nagurski defensive player of the week and the Chuck Badnarik defensive player of the week.
While Orchard was best known for sacking the quarterback, he was able to get to other opposing players in the backfield as well. His 21 tackles for a loss were good for fifth in the nation, while his 1.6 tackles for a loss per game ranked him fourth in the nation. Those same numbers placed Orchard third in the Pac-12 in both categories. His 21 tackles for a loss tied him for the second most ever in a season at Utah and he finished second on the team in total tackles with 84 and he led the team with three forced fumbles for the season.
Orchard's 2104 performance placed him on ten end of season All-American teams, first team on six of them. Walter Camp, ESPN, FWAA, scout, Phil Steele and SB Nation, all listed Orchard as a first team All-American, while The Sporting News, USA Today, the Associated Press and Fox Sports had him listed as a second team All-American. He finished first team All Pac-12, won the Morris Award, given to the league's best defensive lineman as chosen by the league's starting offensive linemen, and won the Ted Hendrick's award, given to the nation's top defensive end. In addition he was named a finalist for the Polynesian College Football Player of the Year Award, the Chuck Bednarik award given to the nation's outstanding defensive player of the year, and the Lombardi Award, given to the nation's best lineman of the year.
Orchard went on to be selected with the 51st overall pick of the NFL draft by the Cleveland Browns. He joined teammates Eric Rowe, Jeremiah Poutasi and Kaelin Clay as NFL draft picks. Orchard leaves as one of the greatest defensive lineman to ever play at Utah. His story of arriving on campus as a wide receiver and being converted into one of the best defensive ends in the country, worthy of a second round NFL draft pick, is what Utah football is all about. Players who are willing to work and are open to letting the coaches mold them into the best players they can be is the signature of Utah football and Nate Orchard serves as the latest example.