Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
Utah State Aggies quarterback Darell Garretson (6) gives the game ball to Utah State Aggies center Tyler Larsen (58) during the Poinsettia Bowl in San Diego Thursday, Dec. 26, 2013. USU won 21-14.
LOGAN — After experiencing unparalleled success the past three years, the Utah State football program is facing a unique problem. If if can really be classified as a "problem."
At Mountain West Conference media days last month in Las Vegas, senior linebacker Zach Vigil expressed concern that some of the new Aggies might think that victories and bowl games are virtually automatic now. Monday afternoon during Utah State's annual football media day, USU coach Matt Wells said Vigil was reiterating something he and his staff have been telling the Aggies this summer.
"If you're a new kid in the program right now, I mean, it's as good a time as there's ever been to be a Utah State football player," Wells explained. "We've won 27 games in three years, been to three straight bowl games, are one of nine Division I teams that have won 20 or more, and we've won back-to-back bowl games. And those kids know that because I tell them that during recruiting.
"But it's up to them to come in and learn because Zach Vigil is exactly right. The bowl games aren't automatic, getting a chance to play for a conference championship in November is not automatic, and graduating's not automatic. They've got learn the way we do all those things, and I just feel more of an emphasis on that this year because there's a lot of new kids."
Wells suggested that it's important that the newcomers learn how to be "followers" and follow the lead of seniors like Vigil, defensive end B.J. Larsen and quarterback Chuckie Keeton. He pointed out that whenever current Seattle Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner told them to do something as underclassmen, "They did it. They didn't question it. And that's what I expect out of these young kids.
"When B.J. Larsen says to do something, I expect a new D-lineman to do it. Why? Experience. Why? Because it works. Why? Because it matters. So, do it and quit asking questions."
READY TO GO: Wells said the Aggies are pretty healthy heading into fall camp, which opens at 2:15 p.m. Tuesday on the USU practice field. The lone exception is sophomore tight end Landon Horne. A product of Davis High, Horne served an LDS mission before playing last season at Snow College, where he caught 39 passes for 406 yards and five touchdowns.
"He's out for a while; an extended amount of time with a lower-leg injury," Wells said of Horne. "He'll hopefully be back sometime late in the season. He injured it during summer workouts."
Wells also briefly addressed the status of senior wide receiver Ronald Butler and junior wide receiver/punt returner JoJo Natson, who were both arrested last month. Butler, who totaled 24 catches for 346 yards and three touchdowns in 2013, was charged with driving under the influence, while Natson, who led the team with 59 receptions last year, is facing theft charges associated with diverting school funds intended for a teammate.
"We've got some issues internally; there are some discipline issues going on," Wells said. "
We've already handled some stuff internally, and really, honestly, it's a little bit ongoing right now. And until things come out that I'll share with you later, then we'll do that at the appropriate time.
"Yeah. Absolutely," Wells added when asked if Butler and Natson are currently available to play.
FRESH FACES: During his half-hour interview session, Wells was asked to name some Aggies who would qualify as "surprise" players heading into fall camp. The first of three Aggies he named, however, wasn't much of a surprise at all.
"You know, Nick Vigil's gonna surprise a lot of people. He wasn't a full-time starter last year, so it's fair for me to say that, right?" Wells said of the sophomore linebacker who started four games and played in all 14 as a freshman. "He was a starter at the end of the year, and he's going to have a really good year. I see that coming along."
Wells also said he was looking forward to seeing running back Rashad Hall, who redshirted last year after transferring from Contra Costa College, in action on the field.
"He had a really strong spring," Wells said. "And I have no reason to believe he won't do it again during training camp and during the season."
comments on this story
Wells is clearly most excited, however, about the potential of sophomore Devin Centers, who saw limited action last year in the secondary in 2013, but was all over the field during USU's spring scrimmages. His interception and subsequent 80-yard return was certainly one of the highlights of the blue-white spring game at Romney Stadium.
"Every time I said, 'Coaches, get off the field, it's live, here we go, stay off the quarterback,' Devin Centers was making a play — whether it was corner, safety, nickel or blocking a punt," Wells said. "So, I'm excited to watch him."