LOGAN – While the skies above Cache Valley were clear and blue Saturday morning, there was a crisp, cool wind blowing around Maverik Stadium as the Utah State football team took the field for its first scrimmage of the spring.
And that breeze occasionally picked up dead leaves still lingering from last fall and swirled them around in the corners of Merlin Olsen Field, providing a little reminder of an epic 2018 season even as the new version of the Aggies was starting to take shape under its new coach.
“You know, philosophies change coach to coach, but the mentality and the goal is the same. So we’re all focusing on moving forward,” USU senior Gerold Bright said following Saturday’s scrimmage. “We went 11-2 last year, but that doesn’t matter. We’ve got to see what we’re going to do this year.
“Like they say, ‘What have you done for me lately?’ That’s all that matters, so we’re going to keep sticking it and going hard.”
Two weeks and six practices into the first spring season of Gary Andersen’s second tenure as head coach of the Aggies, Utah State ran about 65 total plays during its inaugural scrimmage. Although the defense dominated early, holding the Aggie offense to three-and-outs under junior quarterback Jordan Love and Love’s backup last season, sophomore Henry Colombi, the offense literally got up to speed after that and moved the ball with regularity the remainder of the practice session.
The offense, under the tutelage of new offensive coordinator Mike Sanford, put together three straight 70-yard scoring drives, the first courtesy of a 50-plus-yard completion between Love and junior wide receiver Savon Scarver quickly followed by a 5-yard run by freshman running back Enoch Nawahine.
Freshman quarterback Andrew Peasley led the next charge, with culminated in a 4-yard score by junior Chase Nelson, who is making the move from defensive back to running back this spring. Love then guided the offense to another score, completing a long, over-the-middle pass to junior tight end Carson Terrell that set up a 4-yard run of his own into the end zone.
“With what we did in the offseason — our winter conditioning program — the goal was to get big, strong, fast and smart, so that we would be in game shape by now,” said Andersen, who was hired to replace Matt Wells as head coach in December. “By the time we get into the third week, we’re in better shape today than we were the first two weeks. So we wanted to push the pace a little bit and let the offense go fast.
“It’s very obvious that this offense likes to play fast. Once they get snaps on you and get four or five reps down the field, they smell blood in the water. So we want to make sure that we give them those opportunities as much as we can as we continue through the spring.”
The Utah State defensive line is a bit banged up at the moment, and Andersen held standout linebacker David Woodward out of action for much of the scrimmage. That certainly helped Love fire a 15-yard strike to junior wide receiver Jordan Nathan for a touchdown later in the scrimmage, Colombi find junior wide receiver Taylor Compton for a 40-yard gain and junior running back Morian Walker score from a yard out on the final play of the day.
But the Aggie defense did force and recover a fumble, block a field goal attempt and break up several passes, including a would-be touchdown in the end zone that sophomore cornerback Zahodri Jackson managed to strip away at the last second.
“I love the defense, man! I love 'em,” declared the veteran Bright, who saw limited carries. “The DBs are amazing, the linebackers are fearsome and I love that D-line! I love ‘em! Going against great people and great competition is going to make us better. And that’s the only thing that matters.”
After the scrimmage, Andersen noted that he and his staff are still trying to determine who the best eight offensive linemen are, following the graduation of almost the entire O-line from last season. And they are also hoping to come up with a solid backup – or two – to Bright, who shared time in the backfield last year with Darwin Thompson, who has declared for the NFL Draft.
“There was some great competition today,” Andersen noted. “And there was give and take. The offense took care of business a few times on those drive-its and made some big plays, and defensively, I thought we bowed up down here and obviously got a big turnover there."
“From the back end, with me just standing back there, I saw an offense and a defense that are working hard to communicate better and better. So, it was a good run. It will be great film to evaluate.”12 comments on this story
Utah State will continue its spring schedule with three practices in the coming week, including a public session beginning at 2:15 p.m. on Thursday. Overall, the Aggies will participate in 15 spring practice sessions leading up to the annual Blue vs. White Spring Game at noon on Saturday, April 13, at Maverik Stadium.
2019 Utah State Football Spring Practice Dates
- Tuesday, April 2 - (Closed)
- Thursday, April 4 - 2:15 - 4:30 p.m. (Open to Public and Media)
- Saturday, April 6 - (Closed)
- Tuesday, April 9 - 2:15 - 4:30 p.m. (Open to Public and Media)
- Thursday, April 11 - (Closed)
- Saturday, April 13 - Noon - Blue vs. White Spring Game (Open to Public and Media)
- Monday, April 15 - (Closed)
- Tuesday, April 16 - (Closed)