LOGAN Much has been made of Utah State's lack of experience at quarterback.
One thing that will help the Aggies' raw passing game improve especially in the crucial first few weeks of the season is a capable running game.
"For us, or anyone, to have a good passing game, we have to be able to run the ball," coach Brent Guy said. "Every successful passing team is also able to move the ball on the ground."
And while that may sound good as a game plan, it hasn't exactly paid off for Guy's Aggies. A year ago, USU averaged less than 125 ground yards per game and fewer than eight first downs per game via running plays.
This year, however, USU's running back crew is a year older, a year more experienced and Guy hopes able to be more productive.
Led by youngsters Robert Turbin, Curtis Marsh and Derrvinn Speight, the Aggies intend to run the ball with more efficiency.
"We have a great deal of depth at running back," Guy said. "Derrick Cumbee runs it up in there hard; he didn't get many carries today because of the situations we had, but today we saw what we've been seeing a lot of in practice. Turbin and Marsh are both great runners and have great hands. They both had some nice catches and big runs. Derrvin Speight had some good runs. We've got a lot of talent and options there."
In Saturday's scrimmage, Speight had five carries for 33 yards and a touchdown, Turbin added 26 yards and a score on eight carries and Marsh rushed seven times for 19 yards.
Those numbers were not exactly eye-popping, but in the controlled-situation scrimmage, they left Guy encouraged. The Aggies were able to convert seven third-and-short situations via the ground.
"When we are in third-and-short and fourth-and-short situations," Marsh said. "We, the running backs, have to win those situations. We've been working hard on those."
Marsh and Speight are sophomores, Turbin is a freshman and Diondre Borel USU's wide receiver turned scrambling quarterback is also a sophomore. They figure to get the bulk of the carries this year. Speight was the team"s leading rusher a year ago with 504 yards while Marsh picked up 302 in limited action.
"We"ve got a lot of depth at running back this season," Turbin said. "Curtis Marsh is a great running back, Derrvin Speight can carry the ball really well too and we"ve just got a really good group of running backs. We"re all good friends, we all want to work hard together to win football games."
The extra year of maturity and experience will be much needed if USU is to improve on its 124.9 yard per game rushing average.
The running backs will also be called upon to help the passing game develop with quick screen passes in the flat. Saturday, Turbin and Marsh combined for seven receptions and 188 yards with two touchdowns.
Utah State will continue its two-a-day practice schedule through the week. A scrimmage is scheduled for Saturday at 4 p.m. with an Aggie Football Family Fun Night set to follow.Admission to the scrimmage and family night is free.