The Utah State football team, which has been picked as one of the top contenders in the Big West Conference, has been going through two-a-days for nearly two weeks now in preparation for its opener Sept. 3 at Nebraska. And so far, Coach Chuck Shelton is happy with what he's seen.
"This team is further along after a week than we were at this time in either of the last two years," he said. "We're ahead of schedule and we're making progress. But we have too many things still left undone for me to get a great amount of pleasure out of what's taken place in a week."Right from the start, Shelton was worried about his defense, which is young and relatively inexperienced. He was also concerned about his heralded offense, even quarterback Brent Snyder. But he was pretty positive after his team's first scrimmage last Saturday.
"I thought we probably found some defensive football players in the scrimmage. They continue to develop and that's in our favor," he said. "The thing to remember is this: Our defense in that scrimmage was probably defending, hopefully, one of the best offenses in the Big West Conference."
While Snyder completed 5 of 10 passes for 120 yards, Shelton later said, "I didn't think our first unit offense got untracked for awhile. That bothered me a little."
Snyder's backup, Russ Widerburg, completed 7 of 9 passes for 100 yards, but he's not about to move into a starting role - at quarterback, anyway.
Widerburg, a 6-0, 180-pounder from Ventura, Calif., has been working out at wide receiver, something he's always wanted to try. "I never could (play wide receiver) in high school, because I was always told I could help our team better at quarterback," he said.
With the Aggies thinner at the receiver positions than anticipated, Widerburg was given the chance to play another position.
"Russ is too good an ahtlete to sit on the bench," said Shelton. "With his intelligence and knowledge of the game, he can function as a two-position man. Russ is the type who will help you just by showing up for practice."
The running backs all gained similar yardage in the Saturday scrimmage as Demetrious Brown had 48 yards in 12 carries, Timo Tagaola had 44 yards in six carries, Bobby Pendleton 36 yards in eight carries and Brett Payne 35 yards in six carries.
The Aggies have been relatively injury-free so far, but one significant player was injured last Friday. Outside linebacker Tom Hansen, who started eight games as a freshman, injured his ankle and is expected to be out until at least until the Nebraska game.
"The attitude of this bunch has been very good. They're working hard. I can only hope because we finished 1987 on such a meaningful note that it would have some carryover."
Two-a-days will end with a scrimmage Saturday, the final one before the Nebraska game a week later.
AGGIE NOTES: USU's most hearlded player, wide receiver-returner Kendal Smith was kept out of Saturday's scrimmage due to a slight hamstring injury . . . Freshman redshirt quarterback Craig Sorensen has been moved to strong safety . . . Returning receiver Ron Wade decided during the summer to give up football . . . Despite the early starting date in Lincoln, the Aggies will be able to scout their first opponent since the Cornhuskers play Texas A&M Saturday in the Kickoff Classic.