football story

Utah State cornerback Andre Grayson intercepts a pass intended for wide receiver Jordan Nathan during Monday’s practice at Maverik Stadium.

There’s no question Utah State’s football team has one of the most experienced and talented defenses in the Mountain West, and it showed on the fourth practice of fall camp.

USU’s defense was dominant during the live scrimmage portion at the end of Monday’s practice at Maverik Stadium. The Aggie offense was unable to find paydirt during its first eight possessions and only crossed midfield three times during that timespan. All of the drives started at the offense’s 30-yard line.

The first possession ended with back-to-back great plays by cornerback Andre Grayson. The sophomore deftly dislodged a pass intended for wide receiver Siaosi Mariner, and then intercepted star quarterback Jordan Love on the following down.

The next three possessions ended on sacks, the first by former Sky View standout Jake Pitcher, who was practicing with the second unit Monday. Cornerback DJ Williams and linebacker Eric Munoz did a superb job reading screen passes on the second and third possessions, respectively.

USU’s offense marched the pigskin into scoring territory on its fifth drive. Gerold Bright had a couple of nifty runs, while fellow tailback Riley Burt converted on a fourth-and-short scamper. Love connected with Savon Scarver on a slant to put the Aggie offense in the red zone, but the drive ultimately fizzled out.

The offense did have success running the ball during 11-on-11 action. Third-string signal caller Andrew Peasley busted out an explosive gain on what appeared to be a designed QB keeper. Peasley has showcased his speed a few times so far during fall camp, as has Burt, a former Box Elder star and BYU graduate transfer.

A penalty on the sixth possession wiped away a nice 30-plus-yard sideline reception by wideout Derek Wright. Redshirt freshman cornerback Michael Anyanwu batted away a third down pass on the following possession.

Safety Troy Lefeged Jr. and cornerback Cameron Haney did a superb job of each breaking up a pass during seven-on-seven drills, although quarterbacks Henry Colombi, Love and Peasley looked sharp during that portion of the practice. Speedy slot receiver Deven Thompkins got behind the secondary and was wide open on a deep touchdown pass from Peasley.

During 11-on-11 action, the Aggies were running a first-team defense consisting of defensive ends Tipa Galeai and Justus Te’i, defensive tackles Devon Anderson and Fua Leilua, linebackers David Woodward and Kevin Meitzenheimer and defensive backs Braxton Gunther, Lefeged Jr., Haney, Williams and Grayson.

Potential starting defensive tackle Christopher ’Unga was able to practice for the first time during fall camp, but was used sparingly. The senior was a honorable mention all-Mountain West selection a year ago.

One of the most intriguing battles of fall camp is taking place in the offensive trenches, where sophomore left tackle Alfred Edwards in the only returning starter. Edwards was running with the first unit Monday, along with Ty Shaw at left guard, Karter Shaw at center, Heneli Avendano at right guard and Andy Koch and right tackle. Karter Shaw, Avendano and Koch are all freshmen.

Kyler Hack was also seeing time with the first-string offensive line.

A couple of Aggies are out with injuries right now, including Maika Magaeli, who is currently listed as Woodward’s primary backup at linebacker.

Both Utah graduate transfers, Mariner and tight end Caleb Repp, have shined so far during fall camp, although Repp appeared to be nursing a minor injury Monday and spent a lot of time on the stationary bicycle.

The Aggies will practice from 2:45-5:15 p.m. every day through Friday, and all of those sessions are open to the public. Every practice starting Saturday is closed to the public, although fans are invited to attend the annual Family Football Fun Day next Saturday at 5 p.m. at Maverik Stadium.

jturner@hjnews.com Twitter: hjtrebek

Jason Turner is a sports reporter for The Herald Journal. He can be reached at jturner@hjnews.com or 435-792-7237.