The Utah Utes have suffered a really tough loss to their defense with an injury to senior linebacker Jacoby Hale. Hale suffered an injury in spring practice on Thursday that was later revealed to be a torn ACL and MCL. Hale will have surgery and his return date is unknown. He is definitely out for the remainder of spring practice.
Whittingham said he’s seen guys come back as quickly as four months, but seven is more the norm. If Hale can’t return, the team may apply for a hardship waiver.
Hale’s injury came on a seemingly harmless play at Spence Eccles Field House. He pivoted to make a play on a left-sideline throw and fell to the turf, writhing in pain.
Hale was the team’s best returning pass rusher with the departure of Trevor Reilly. Hale notched up 6.5 sacks in nine games and also piled up 10 tackles for loss as well. Hale also broke up three passes. This is yet another major injury for Hale, having already been knocked out of the 2012 campaign early due to an ankle injury.
Utah luckily has decent depth at the position. Jason Whittingham and Jared Norris are both returning junior linebackers who ranked among the top five in tackles last year. This could force some of the youngsters like Uaea Masina, Travis Still, Pita Taumoepenu, and LT Filiaga to have to step up and learn how to make plays on the job.
The big question for Utah: Who will be able to generate the pass rush with the team's three best rushers graduated or incapacitated? Neither Whittingham nor Norris have that edge rush speed. It might have to be a youngster who ends up stepping up here, and thankfully Utah has plenty of options. It'll be a big question that the coaching staff will have to resolve sometime before the season begins.
Losing Hale is a big blow, but not a devastating one for Utah football. How the Utes defensive staff responds and adapts will be telling.