It was the start to Wednesday’s practice the Aggie offense was hoping for.
Utah State’s football team held its sixth practice of fall camp on a pleasant Wednesday afternoon at Maverik Stadium, and the offense came out sharp in a situational third-down drill.
In a pair of possessions, star quarterback Jordan Love completed 6 of 6 passes, all of which resulted in first downs. Tight end Caleb Repp and wide receiver Savon Scarver each hauled in two receptions, with Scarver’s second catch gaining at least 20 yards.
Back-up signal caller Henry Colombi also made some nice reads and throws during the third-down drill, including a beautiful sideline strike to Scarver with defensive end Elijah Shelton applying some good weakside pressure. Colombi and Love connected with wideout Siaosi Mariner for first downs, and Colombi found receiver Ajana Carter to move the sticks.
“Yeah, we started out with the third-down drill and I thought the offense executed well in that situation,” USU head coach Gary Andersen said. “You know, the defense had some nice plays in there too, so there was definitely some give and take. But I think the offense is doing a nice job of getting the ball out in those scenarios, changing the pace of play, which makes it a little difficult on the defensive side.”
Mariner, Scarver and Sean Carter currently appear to be in a competitive battle for the two stating outside receiver spots, and all three skill position players shined Wednesday. Speedy sophomore Deven Thompkins looked comfortable in the slot, where he is contending for playing time with veterans Jordan Nathan and former Logan High star Taylor Compton.
Carter, a 6-foot-4 transfer from Fullerton Junior College, hauled in a trio of touchdowns during a skelly (7-on-7) drill — one from Love, Colombi and Andrew Peasley.
“Sean Carter’s right in (the mix),” Andersen said. “He was a JC guy we brought in here to compete and I think he’s getting his legs underneath himself. I think his mind is becoming clear (within the offense). You know, Day 6, so we’ve still got a long ways to go until we play our first game, but today was a day where I felt like he was at peace and just letting his athletic ability take over. And he has a lot of that, so it was good to see him make some plays and he’ll compete for playing time.”
Love showcased his impressive arm strength on a 40-yard TD to Carter, one that traveled 50 yards in the air and appeared to be effortless. Love also displayed some pinpoint accuracy on a touchdown pass inside the red zone to Nathan in tight coverage.
Freshman cornerback Michael Anyanwu intercepted a pass during the skelly drill, and sophomore cornerback Zahodri Jackson broke on the ball nicely for a pass breakup. Fellow defensive backs Shaq Bond (safety) and Cameron Haney (cornerback) played particularly well during the practice.
Andersen has been pleased with the strides USU’s offensive line has made this week. The competition continues to intensify for spots on the depth chart in the offensive trenches. Alfred Edwards (left tackle), Heneli Avendano (left guard), Demytrick Ali’ifua (center), Karter Shaw (right guard) and Andy Kock (right tackle) were running with the first unit Wednesday. Shaw was lining up at center earlier in the week.
Chandler Dolphin was taking snaps as USU’s No. 2 center during Wednesday’s practice. He was joined on that unit by Jacob South (left tackle), Ty Shaw (left guard), former defensive lineman Mohelika Uasike (right guard) and true freshman Jackson Owens (right tackle).
“I think we’ve really made some progress in that last 48 hours with the offensive line in an encouraging way,” Andersen said.
The Aggies gained some depth in the offensive trenches Wednesday as Logan High product Caden Andersen made the switch from defensive tackle to offensive guard. The junior received some hearty cheers from his defensive teammates during live drills at the end of practice.
USU spent a lot of time during Wednesday’s practice working on special teams units, especially the punting game. The Aggie punters did a solid job of placing the ball inside the 10-yard line.
“The punt team is something you work on every single day and those kids have a great interest in that team, and coach (Stacy) Collins and the other coaches who are coaching that team have done a really good job, so I think we’re in a good spot in punt,” Andersen said. “We’re snapping the ball extremely well, which is huge, and I think we’re punting the ball well, whether we’re trying to boom it out of there and kick it to the right or to the left or down the middle, or if we’re sky kicking it.”
The junior safety was helped off the field during Tuesday’s practice and did not return. However, Gilliam was back Wednesday and did not appear to be limited by an injury.
All-Mountain West cornerback DJ Williams came up a bit gimpy and grabbed his hamstring after covering Mariner during the aforementioned skelly drilll. The senior was unable to compete the rest of the practice, but remained on the sidelines and it didn’t appear to be a serious injury.
Gilliam and fellow junior college transfer safety Troy Lefeged Jr. garnered the praise of Andersen, who said “they’ve both done a nice job carrying over what they learned in the spring” into fall camp.
When asked what other Aggie newcomers have impressed so far during fall camp, Andersen singled out Mariner and Repp offensively, and JUCO transfer Noah Young at linebacker. Young is “starting to come around, and he needs to. We need to count on him.”
Andersen was very pleased with how former East High and Snow College star running back Jaylen Warren performed during Tuesday’s practice, not only running the ball but in pass protection.
USU officially announced the addition of Heninger, a graduate transfer defensive end who played at the University of Utah, to the roster. The Bingham High product will be a junior this fall and will have two years of eligibility remaining.
Heninger spent three seasons with the Utes and appeared in 23 career games. During his time at Utah, the South Jordan native recorded 13 tackles, including 2.0 for a loss, and one sack. The academic all-Pac 12 honoree also recovered a pair of fumbles and broke up two passes.