So far, so good for the Utah State football program, particularly from a health standpoint.
The Aggies just completed their first full week of fall camp and suffered no serious injuries. The week was highlighted by an 80-or-so-play scrimmage that took place last Friday.
USU head coach Gary Andersen talked about the scrimmage, among other things, with the media via Zoom on Saturday. The former Ricks College and University of Utah player didn’t go into too many details, but liked what he saw, especially when you consider the Aggies haven’t really scrimmaged during the 2020 calendar year.
“I would say that the day was won by the defense overall,” he said. “We did a nice job of taking care of the football on the offensive side of the ball. We didn’t have enough explosive plays on the offensive side of the football which, in turn, really gave the defense the opportunity to win the day.”
Andersen was pleased with how the defense tackled and how the offensive fared in red zone situations. The offense converted most of their red zone scenarios into touchdowns, which “was a huge positive.”
The offense stuck with a run-heavy package throughout most of the scrimmage, but that was “by design,” Andersen explained. Experienced tailbacks Jaylen Warren and Devonta’e Henry-Cole were used sparingly during the scrimmage, giving true freshman John Gentry a chance to showcase his talents.
Redshirt freshman Cooper Legas quarterbacked the offense during one series, with Utah transfer Jason Shelley and sophomore Andrew Peasley splitting the signal caller duties the rest of the way, Andersen said.
Another highlight from the scrimmage was two blocked punts on special teams, and Andersen said this was with first-string personnel on both sides of the ball.
Andersen was asked what positional groups stood out during the first week of camp and he singled out the secondary, running backs and tight ends, However, he also stressed “the evaluation of the offensive and defensive lines has really just started the last few days.”
The Aggies will likely hold a shorter scrimmage this Friday, with some mini-scrimmages — mostly situational scenarios such as red zone opportunities and third-down conversions — in between.
TY SHAW UPDATE
The senior offensive lineman is one of four players who spent multiple years with the program who has elected to move on from football. Shaw, plus the other three — former Logan High standouts Chase Nelson (running back) and Caden Andersen (defensive lineman), and Logan Lee (tight end) — are on track to graduate this semester.
All four of them decided to move on once it was originally announced back in August the Mountain West was postponing football in the fall. Nelson is preparing to go to medical school, while Lee took what Andersen called “an unbelievable job opportunity.”
“They have given everything they could to Aggie Nation, those kids, and they’re excited about the path that they’re on, and I’m excited to watch them and continually talk to them as they (go forward in life),” Andersen said.
As for Shaw, he was reinstated to the team after being suspended in July for “inappropriate racial comments” stemming from a social media exchange with a former Herriman High School teammate. Although Shaw was reinstated, he “decided to move forward in life and he’s doing great,” Andersen said. “You know, the last time I talked to him wasn’t too long ago. He’s enjoying life outside of football.”
Nelson was recently named one of 199 semifinalists for the William V. Campbell Trophy, which is given annually to a college football player “for his combined academic success, football performance and exemplary leadership,” according to a press release.
The National Football Foundation will announce 12-14 finalists in November, and all of them will be awarded $18,000 postgraduate scholarships. The winner will receive a bronze statue and have his postgraduate scholarship increased to $25,000.
Nelson appeared in 26 career games for the Aggies, mostly as a special teams standout, and contributed with 23 tackles, including a sack, and a forced fumble.
During his Zoom conference, Andersen said Lefeged, USU’s leading tackler a year ago with 104, has moved back to his old spot, “so it will be him and Shaq (Bond) back there at the safety position.” The senior was transitioning into a hybrid linebacker/safety during USU’s limited spring camp.
“After a week of evaluation — he’s really good at (the F linebacker position) too — but we want to always work to get the best guys on the field,” Andersen said of Lefeged.
Andersen went on to say Lefeged will “still be up there sometimes playing on the edge of the defense, depending on the defensive package.”
The Aggies have transitioned back to the 3-4 base defense they employed during their memorable 2018 season. Nevertheless, co-defensive coordinators Frank Maile and Stacy Collins will use multiple defensive packages, and Andersen said his defensive linemen are doing a great job of adapting to the various fronts.
“We’re progressing and we are playing some odd front, we’re playing some even front,” he said. “It’s not all just odd. We’re bouncing back and forth, and really trying to get a continual feel for our players that are there and the young men that we have. You know, we’ve never seen (UCLA graduate transfer) Marcus Moore play live football before until this last week and had never seen him in a scrimmage until yesterday.”
COLD WEATHER GAMES
When the Aggies found out last week who their eight opponents would be this fall, it was quickly evident they would have to deal with some less-than-ideal weather. USU’s only two opponents from warm weather locations, San Diego State and Fresno State, will be coming to Maverik Stadium.
Fortunately for the Aggies, their appear to have the personnel needed to handle inclement weather, especially on the offensive side of the ball.
“The chances of not so good weather every game is fairly high, without a doubt, and our ability to be able to run the football with our tight ends, our offensive line, our running backs, DT (Deven Thompkins) at times (is crucial),” Andersen said. “You’ve got to get the ball in that kid’s hands (because) he’s special. And then obviously our quarterbacks running the football too needs to be a big part of our run game because they are athletic guys and they can make people miss.”