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Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2014

Utah Utes senior Nate Orchard's goal: Improve by being 'unpredictable'

By Dirk Facer, Deseret News

Published: Wed, July 30 6:30 p.m. MDT

 Utah defensive lineman Nate Orchard (middle) hopes to have a successful senior season.

Utah defensive lineman Nate Orchard (middle) hopes to have a successful senior season.

(Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

HOLLYWOOD, California — When Utah coach Kyle Whittingham introduced defensive end Nate Orchard at Pac-12 media days, he described the senior as a “big-time player” and then some.

“He’s a big-play guy as well,” Whittingham said. “ ... He’ll have his degree in December, finishing up his academics right after his senior year.”

Whittingham added that Orchard never redshirted. The former Highland High star was thrown right into the mix.

Since joining the Utes in 2011, Orchard hasn’t missed a game. He’s appeared in 37 contests — making 102 tackles (54 solo) with 17 1/2 stops behind the line of scrimmage, seven pass deflections, 6 1/2 sacks, five forced fumbles and four fumble recoveries.

The numbers, though, aren’t enough to satisfy the 6-foot-4, 225-pound Orchard.

“I personally don’t think I’ve been that effective. I feel like I could have done more in so many ways,” he said. “I look over film the last year and previous years and it’s frustrating to watch.”

The reason?

Orchard is his own worst critic.

“There’s so much I could do better,” he explained. “I know I could be a better player and so I’m hard on myself.”

As Orchard enters his final season with the Utes, he’s got a definite goal for improvement in mind.

“I want to be unpredictable on a week-to-week basis because I didn’t do a good job over the last couple of years kind of camouflaging what my opponent should expect of me,” Orchard said. “So I just want to bring something different out of the box this year and surprise them in different ways.”

That, however, may be a tall order. Orchard has stepped up big since becoming a starter at left end. In 2012, he forced a fumble, recovered it and returned it for a touchdown against USC. In last season’s upset of fifth-ranked Stanford, Orchard was named Athlon National Defensive Player of the Week after forcing two fumbles and recording two sacks against the Cardinal.

Despite the success, Orchard insists he can do better — a lot better.

“Maybe I could be better if Coach Whit threw me the ball. I don’t know,” he joked. “I feel like I’m where I need to be mentally but physically I know I could do a lot more.”

Orchard does, however, feel like he’s definitely progressed during his time at Utah.

“Coming in my freshman year I started off at the bottom of the totem pole and worked my way up to the top,” Orchard said. “A lot of guys guided and mentored me and paved the way for me.”

Orchard mentioned Star Lotulelei, Tevita Finau, Derrick Shelby and Trevor Reilly as very influential guys on and off the field. He’s especially grateful for the latter, which he said has kind of molded him into the father (Orchard and wife, Maegan, have a daughter Katherine) and player that he is today.

Now, Orchard feels as if the baton for Utah’s defensive line has been handed to him. With Reilly moving on to the NFL, Orchard considers himself the old man and dad on the team.

“I feel like that’s me even though I’m 21 years old,” he said. “I feel like I’ve seen and been through it all.”

As for a future in the NFL, Orchard acknowledged he’s looking forward to it. However, it’s not what drives him. He’s more interested in laying down a legacy for his family, so they’ll know his priorities.

“I’m more excited to graduate in December and get my degree in economics and kind of go from there because education is the most important thing to me,” Orchard said. “Football will only take you so far and I try not to bank on it too much.”

Email: dirk@desnews.com Twitter: @DirkFacer

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1. gdog3finally
West Jordan, Utah,
July 31, 2014

You gotta love Nate Orchard. If Gionni Paul and Jacoby Hale can get healthy and then Blechen can just stay healthy and regain his old form, then look out this years Utes will have a defense to be reckoned with.

The offense is a mystery but I am optimistic this year.

2. thebigsamoan
Richmond, VA,
July 31, 2014

“I’m more excited to graduate in December and get my degree in economics and kind of go from there because education is the most important thing to me,” Orchard said. “Football will only take you so far and I try not to bank on it too much.”

Sounds like this young man has gotten his priorities firmly in place! Football will be a huge bonus if he makes it to the next level, but his education will be his meal ticket for life.

From a diehard Cougar fan, Good luck to you Mr. Orchard, and the same goes for your Utes. Hope you tear it up on this your final year!

3. BigCougar
Bountiful, UT,
July 31, 2014

“I personally don’t think I’ve been that effective."

---------------

I think a lot of people would agree with that. Good thing he's not banking on the NFL and focusing on his degree. Good priority to have.

4. VegasUte
Las Vegas, NV,
July 31, 2014

thebigsamoan - as always, you are a class act! LittleKewg: Not so much!

Nate - you are a gentleman and a scholar! We appreciate all the hard work you have put in for the team, and your personal growth. Good luck this season - it will be a big one for you!

Go Utes!!
Go Nate!

5. Stringer Bell
Henderson, NV,
July 31, 2014

BigCougar
Bountiful, UT
“I personally don’t think I’ve been that effective."

Many would agree.