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SALT LAKE CITY — With new banners put into place at Rice-Eccles Stadium, the feel of the college football season is really starting to settle in. Just 15 days remain until the Utes take the field against Southern Utah University, which means KSL.com will be highlighting one of the more popular players on the team in No. 15, Dominique Hatfield.
The 5-foot-10, 175-pound cornerback comes to Utah by way of Los Angeles and has made himself at home in Salt Lake City. Hatfield has seen playing time every year since his true freshman season, though it wasn’t always clear exactly where that would be.
That freshman campaign, he started off as a limited wide receiver, while chipping in on special teams. These days, the converted senior cornerback, though he played the position in high school, is one of the leaders of an experienced secondary group after starting at the position for much of the last two seasons. This unit was fourth in the nation in interceptions in 2015, with four coming from Hatfield.
His aggressiveness, something the entire unit shares, has helped him compile the statistics that he has, but it has also, at times, led to big plays and touchdowns for the opposing team. It’s a characteristic that you love having in a defensive back, someone who is eager to jump at the ball and create a turnover, but it can sometimes come back to bite you, too.
Something else the sticks out about Hatfield’s game is his confidence. Just about every game, Utah fans have come to expect Hatfield chattering and trash-talking with the opponent out there on the field, a motivational tactic for him and his teammates, no doubt. There’s nothing wrong with that, as it’s done by most college football players out there, but it’s also been fuel for his opponents (remember USC’s JuJu Smith-Schuster’s vicious point and stiff arm on Hatfield last season?).
But that’s just part of Hatfield’s game, and Utah fans love it. That's why Hatfield has developed into one of the fan-favorites on this Ute squad and another reason he’s as good as he is. What talented player doesn’t know it, right?
With no injuries and no off-the-field drama heading into this season, Hatfield is hoping to make his senior season his best one yet. According to KSL.com intern Stephen Lindsey, his goals for the season are seven interceptions, 50 solo tackles and first-team All-Pac-12 selection.
If Hatfield can continue to make yearly improvements like he has been since his arrival in Salt Lake City, don’t be surprised to see him reach those marks by season’s end. Twitter: @GriffDoug