<strong>LOGAN—</strong>The USU football team donned shoulder pads for the first time Monday, and the added protection showed up through the increased intensity of the two-hour practice. Here are some notes and observations from day.
Senior receiver <a href=”http://www.utahstateaggies.com/sports/m-footbl/mtt/austin_matt00.html” target=”_blank”>Matt Austin</a> is a beast, plain and simple. He looks bigger than last year, and he has great body control and the ability to locate the ball in the air. He caught everything thrown his way Monday, including a great over-the-shoulder grab in the corner of the end zone where he used his size to shield off senior CB Jumanne Robertson, and then adjusted to the ball in the air to make the catch.
Freshman receiver <a href=”http://www.utahstateaggies.com/sports/m-footbl/mtt/natson_brucejojo00.html” target=”_blank”>JoJo Natson</a> continued to impress with his speed, but he also showcased great hands. The 5 foot 6 inch, 140 pounder made a great catch in the back of the end zone when senior QB <a href=”http://www.utahstateaggies.com/sports/m-footbl/mtt/kennedy_adam00.html” target=”_blank”>Adam Kennedy</a> scrambled to his left. Natson leaped up to make the catch in traffic, and then was able to secure the ball and get both feet in bounds for the score.
Along with the returning talent of the receiving corps, the Aggies also have unprecedented size at the position. Junior college transfers <a href=”http://www.utahstateaggies.com/sports/m-footbl/mtt/wheatjr_alex00.html” target=”_blank”>Alex Wheat</a> and <a href=”http://www.utahstateaggies.com/sports/m-footbl/mtt/lorick_dwayne00.html” target=”_blank”>Dwayne Lorick</a> measure 6 feet 4 inches, and 6 feet 5 inches, respectively. They are also both strong at 215 pounds each. Lorick struggled in Monday’s practice with some dropped balls, but Wheat looked good as he caught a low pass in 7-on-7 drills, shook off a defender, and jogged into the end zone.
As good as USU’s receiving group looked, the Aggies’ defensive backs are equally impressive. Despite often giving up size, the DB’s showed great timing ability in breaking up passes. Seniors <a href=”http://www.utahstateaggies.com/sports/m-footbl/mtt/byrd_quinton00.html” target=”_blank”>Quinton Byrd</a> and <a href=”http://www.utahstateaggies.com/sports/m-footbl/mtt/alston_terrence00.html” target=”_blank”>Terrence Alston</a> each broke up would-be catches, while sophomore safety <a href=”http://www.utahstateaggies.com/sports/m-footbl/mtt/suite_brian00.html” target=”_blank”>Brian Suite</a> flashed his speed and coverage ability all over the field – including some of the best defense played on Austin.
There was a collective holding of breath late in the practice when senior linebacker <a href=”http://www.utahstateaggies.com/sports/m-footbl/mtt/filimoeatu_bojay00.html” target=”_blank”>Bojay Filimoeatu</a> went down holding his left knee and eventually had to be helped off the field. After practice, he had the knee wrapped with ice, but was moving around under his own power without aid.
Coming off of a season ending injury, senior tight end <a href=”http://www.utahstateaggies.com/sports/m-footbl/mtt/bartlett_kellen00.html” target=”_blank”>Kellen Bartlett</a> was making plays all over the field as well. He made a couple of really nice catches, including an unbelievable grab in double-coverage. He figures to be a big feature in the USU offense this season.
The final observation of the day, comes in the kicking game. Coming out of the spring game, it appeared that sophomore <a href=”http://www.utahstateaggies.com/sports/m-footbl/mtt/diaz_nick00.html” target=”_blank”>Nick Diaz</a> had the edge in the battle to be USU’s starting kicking. However, a new face has cropped up and it is one many fans may recognize.
Former Sky View kicker <a href=”http://www.utahstateaggies.com/sports/m-footbl/mtt/warren_brock00.html” target=”_blank”>Brock Warren</a> of Hyde Park is a walk-on, and has immediately made his presence felt. He appears to be the most consistent kicker so far in fall camp, and may have the biggest leg as well. Time will tell if he can supplant the two veterans on the USU roster – Diaz, and last year’s starter <a href=”http://www.utahstateaggies.com/sports/m-footbl/mtt/thompson_josh00.html” target=”_blank”>Josh Thompson</a> – but he certainly has an opportunity to make his case.