Utah State football held its sixth spring practice Thursday morning inside the Stan Laub Indoor Complex, and the Aggie wide receivers are looking to improve upon their vertical passing game.
“We have two experienced guys on the perimeter in Ron’quavion Tarver and Savon Scarver, but we have to find out who the next group of guys are,” said outside wide receivers coach Jovon Bouknight. “This spring, we definitely want to establish the deep ball and continue to get better at.
“We also have three talented slots in Jordan Nathan, Aaren Vaughns and DJ Nelson, who is very savvy and has transitioned very well to the position."
Utah State welcomes back five returning letterwinners at wide receiver from last season who have combined to play in 76 games with 32 starts during their careers. In fact, USU returns 66.5 percent (169/254) of its receptions, 72.4 percent (2,127/2,938) of its receiving yards and 76.5 percent (13/17) of its receiving touchdowns from a season ago.
In all, Utah State returns nine wide receivers who were members of the program during the 2017 season, including two starters in senior Tarver and sophomore Jordan Nathan. USU also welcomes back three other letterwinners in senior Vaughns, junior Chad Artist and sophomore Scarver. USU also returns two redshirts in freshmen Cole Christensen and Preston Curtis, to go along with two returning squad members in junior Dylan Spradling and sophomore Taylor Compton.
Tarver has the most returning game experience for Utah State as he has played in 25 contests and made 19 starts in his career. Nathan started 12 contests and played in all 13 games last season, while Artist and Scarver have also played in 13 career games. Vaughns played in 12 games last season and made one start, while Compton saw action in two games last year.
Tarver was also Utah State's most productive receiver in 2017 as he led the team in every receiving category, catching 48 passes for 569 yards (11.9 ypr) and seven touchdowns. During his first two years at Utah State, Tarver has caught 94 passes for 1,171 yards (12.5 ypr) and 10 touchdowns.
Nathan caught 25 passes for 324 yards (13.0 ypr) and two touchdowns a year ago, while Vaughns had 14 receptions for 155 yards (11.1 ypr) and Scarver caught 11 passes for 240 yards (21.8 ypr) and one touchdown.
Utah State has two other players who will figure into the mix at wide receiver this year as seniors Justen Hervey and Nelson are switching to the position this spring. Nelson, who spent his first three years at USU as a quarterback and has played in a team-tying-best 38 games, played wide receiver on a limited basis in 2017 and caught two passes for 29 yards. Hervey, who has played in 32 career games, spent his first three years at USU as a running back and gained 270 yards on 51 carries (5.3 ypc) and three touchdowns, to go along with two receptions for zero yards.
“As far as my transition goes, I’m getting more comfortable with the technique and assignment of the wide receiver position every day,” said Nelson. “It’s a new position and I have never really played it before in my life, so it can be a little overwhelming at times. But, when I focus on each thing I need to do I feel like I am making progress.”
Utah State will conclude its second week of practice with its first scrimmage of the spring on Friday, March 16, at 3:30 p.m.
During the five-week period, the Aggies will participate in 15 spring practice sessions, including their annual Blue vs. White Spring Game on Saturday, April 7, on Merlin Olsen Field at Maverik Stadium at 2 p.m.
Doug Hoffman is the associate athletic director for Utah State University Athletic Media Relations.