- Kevin Gemmell, ESPN Staff Writer
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Utah's defense -- which projects to be one of the best in the Pac-12 this season -- will have to get on without one of its starters for the first three games of the 2012 season.
Safety Brian Blechen has been suspended for three games for violating team rules, the school announced on Monday. The 6-foot-2, 218-pound strong safety has been a starter since his true freshman season.
Blechen, who was originally recruited to play quarterback out of Moorpark, Calif., will have to sit out against Northern Colorado, Utah State and -- this is the one that has to sting -- rival BYU.
Blechen, who earned all-conference honorable mention last season, is one of Utah's most versatile defenders, having started four games at linebacker last season before moving back to safety. Last season he forced three fumbles and had three interceptions. The freshman All-American has seven interceptions in his first two seasons.
Junior Quade Chappuis is listed behind Blechen on Utah's post-spring depth chart. The former walk-on has one career interception -- against BYU. He appeared in all 13 games last season, starting one against Washington.
Blechen will continue to practice with the team throughout his suspension. He's eligible to return Sept. 22 at Arizona State. The Utes are then on bye before their Oct. 4 showdown with USC in Salt Lake City.