May 27, 2008 was a milestone day for Utah State football fans. Nevermind that the Aggies were coming off of a 2-10 campaign the previous fall, but the team, which had struggled with offensive inconstancy all year, learned on that spring day that quarterback Riley Nelson would not be returning to Logan following an LDS Church Mission trip.For the Utah State faithful, Nelson’s decision to transfer to rival Brigham Young was a shock to the program. It wasn’t just that the Logan born-and-bred Nelson, the former “Mr. Football” in the state of Utah, represented the hope Aggie fans had for improvement after a decade of losing seasons, but rather that the cupboard of future quarterbacks at the university was open with his departure.The 2007 starter, Leon Jackson III, was moving on following his senior season, and without Nelson there seemed to be no up-and-coming quarterback prospect with the talent or potential to step up for the team and assume the kind of leadership role a down on its luck program could rally behind in future seasons.Well, there was one.He was a skinny, wiry freshman who was more athlete than quarterback. An Oakley, Calif. native who only the diehard fans knew by name, the 2007 Scout Team MVP had shown some promise as a dual-threat quarterback in high school, but those who saw him in Aggie practices knew him more for his elusive feet and change of direction ability in the open field. They pegged him as an “athlete,” a player with tremendous talent, but not the kind of person to lead a program. Besides, he was too quiet, and given the team’s unfortunate history on the offensive line, he’d surely never last against the Western Athletic Conference defenses.Flash forward two and a half years. Diondre Borel has not only lasted in Logan, he’s thrived. Once the shy, skinny freshman who struggled to find the open man downfield, Borel has since matured into the confident leader of Utah State, now standing at the head of one of college football’s most dynamic and innovative attacks. According to his coaches, Borel’s importance to the team and to the program cannot be overstated.”He is our leader,” said Utah State offensive coordinator Dave Baldwin. “He is our playmaker. He directs the offense. He’s the pace of the offense, and he is the heartbeat of the offense. He means everything to us, and if he plays well, we’re going to play well.”Utah State head coach Gary Andersen put Borel’s importance in broader terms, saying, “He is the catalyst for this football team this year.”How did this former wildcard athlete become among the most feared quarterbacks in the entire country, ascending up the school and conference record books while lending an air of hope in Logan not seen since the days of Anthony Calvillo or John L. Smith?The answer lies just as much in Borel’s relentless drive for improvement as his desire to be the leader of the team which will finally give the people of Logan something to smile about again.Borel’s style of leadership may not mimic that of the majority of college football players. He’s no longer timid or indecisive when addressing his teammates, but he’s never been the kind of player to raise his voice in anger.”He’s not a screamer or yeller,” Baldwin said. “He’s more about getting it done, and his teammates know that when he says something, he means it.”Andersen said that he has seen Borel mature as leader both on the field and in the locker room during the past two years. The Aggie head coach recalls meeting a talented but unsure junior who has embraced the role as the face of the program just a year later.”He has always cared for others, but now he understands how important his role is,” Andersen said. “This program is very important to Diondre, from how these kids are going to play, and how they are going to carry on after he leaves.”The senior quarterback’s leadership has taken on special meaning this season, as several of Utah State’s top players have gotten injured. Not only did the Aggies lose second team all-WAC running back Robert Turbin and wide receiver Stanley Morrison before the season began, but an early season injury to running back Michael Smith deprived the Aggies of another big play threat. Andersen said that Borel hasn’t blinked in the face of the adversity, however, and has stepped up his game on the field, while working to build the team’s confidence off it.”You’re sitting here as the quarterback walking into your senior year, and you lose your best three playmakers,” Andersen explained. “That doesn’t make life real easy for you as a quarterback, but he has never said a word about it. He keeps fighting, and he keeps leading us.”For his part, Borel doesn’t measure his career in wins and losses, and maintains that his role as a senior is to help establish the foundation for future Aggie teams to come. As he looks back on his career in Logan, the memories that stand out to him the most almost always revolve around the close relationship he has developed with his teammates.”It’s the way we progressed,” said Borel, who set the Utah State single-season record for total offense (3,343 yards) in 2009. “Even though the wins haven’t been there, from when I first got here, we’ve progressed as a team and become a team and come together as a family.”He may not have the wins to show for it, but Borel’s career has been anything but average. The former wide receiver always had the athleticism to make plays with his legs, but his maturation as a passer over the last three seasons has been what has really distinguished him. With a cannon for an arm and exceptional athleticism in the open field, Borel represents a new breed of spread quarterbacks in the college ranks, and makes game-planning a nightmare for defensive coordinators. “Every quarterback is about as good as their surrounding cast. But with the abilities he has as a spread quarterback, he has it all,” said Andersen. “He can run. He has a good mind. He knows protections and throws the ball well and is a tremendous athlete. He has it all in that area.”Baldwin, who prior to coming to Logan coached NFL bound quarterbacks in Drew Stanton and Jeff Smoker while serving as the offensive coordinator at Michigan State, said that Borel’s talents eclipse those of his former Spartan pupils, and insists that Borel has next-level ability.”Athletically, he’s more talented than anyone I’ve had,” Baldwin said. “Passing wise, he’s as talented as Jeff Smoker, who was a sixth round draft pick, and Drew Stanton, who was a kid who got drafted in the second round by the Detroit Lions.””He’s as good a player as I’ll ever have,” added Baldwin.Baldwin and Andersen aren’t the only ones who believe Borel can make it on the next level. While scouts and media pundits have sometimes pegged him as a “system” quarterback, Borel remains motivated to prove that his ability as a passer has equaled the potential he’s long showed as an athlete.”Seeing other guys in the NFL and seeing guys I’ve played against, I know I can be out there and doing the same things they do,” Borel said.Before he gets that chance, Borel has another mission to accomplish. He’s already proven to the fans in Logan, and observers all over the nation, that Utah State is a program to watch, and now he’s determined to get the Aggies to their first bowl game since 1997.”It would mean a lot,” Borel said of getting to the postseason. “Just for the community, the players and the staff. We haven’t had a winning season in a long time, and it’s just great for the players to get going, so when I’m gone they can keep winning games.”BOREL ONE OF SIX QB’S IN COUNTRY IN CAREER 1,000 RUSH/5,000 PASS CLUB — Borel is one of six quarterbacks in the country currently with 1,000 career rushing yards and 5,000 career passing yards.QB SCHOOL RUSH YDS PASS YDSColin Kaepernick Nevada 3,357 8,000Andy Dalton TCU 1,332 8,255Jake Locker Washington 1,654 6,000Tyrod Taylor Virginia Tech 1,738 5,020Austen Arnaud Iowa State 1,084 5,664Diondre Borel Utah State 1,185 5,422BOREL SCHOOL RECORD HOLDER — Diondre Borel holds four school records, as he is the USU record holder for single-season total offense (3,343 yards, 2009), single-season rushing yards by a QB (632 in 2008) and career rushing yards for a QB (1,098 yards, 2007-pres.), as well as fewest INT thrown (four in 2009)… Borel’s 105 rushing yards in 2009 vs. Fresno State (Oct. 31), was just shy of the single-game rushing record by a QB of 121 yards held by Tony Adams vs. Colorado State in 1972.Rushing Yards by a QuarterbackGame: 121, Tony Adams (12 attempts) vs. Colo. State, 1972 105, Diondre Borel (12 attempts) vs. Idaho, 2008Season: 632, Diondre Borel (179 att.), 2008Career: 1,180, Diondre Borel (351 att.), 2007-pres.BOREL RECORD WATCH — Now with 6,607 career total offense yards, Borel has taken over sole possession of No. 2 on USU’s career total offense list, passing Tony Adams (1970-72) with 6,587… Borel needs 2,184 yards to reach USU’s career total offense record holder Jose Fuentes (1999-2002) at No. 1 with 8,791 yards.USU Career Total OffenseNo. Name Years Yds. To Tie1. Jose Fuentes 1999-2002 8,791 2,1842. Diondre Borel 2007-pres. 6,607 3. Tony Adams 1970-72 6,587 4. Eric Hipple 1976-79 6,121
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