Young stars highlight USU linebackers

<em><em>Editor’s note: This is part three of a nine part series that will highlight each position group of the USU football team leading up to the season opener on Aug. 30 against Southern Utah.</em></em>

<strong>LOGAN—</strong> Normally losing your top two tacklers who combined for an astounding 247 stops would be a cause for concern. While there is no doubt that Bobby Wagner and Kyle Gallagher will be missed in the middle of the defense for Utah State, emerging stars are poised to fill the gap quickly and lesson the blow.

Sliding over to the inside linebacker spot, one of those young stars is sophomore Tavaris McMillian. Despite only being a freshman in 2011, McMillian tied for sixth on the team with 45 stops as an outside linebacker. Joining McMillian inside will be junior Jake Doughty who has had one of the best camps of anyone. Doughty recorded 26 stops of his own last season.

“I think one thing that nobody knows about is Jake Doughty. His work ethic in the offseason and everything else is amazing,” linebacker coach Kevin Clune said. “I think he is our strongest squatter on the team, and is just a rock. He’s a smart, intelligent player and I can count on him every day.”

Outside linebacker Bojay Filimoeatu is the senior leader of a linebacking corps that is a solid two deep at every position. Starting across from Filimoeatu will be freshman Kyler Fackrell who at 6 feet 5 inches tall and 235 pounds may have been the only player on the team to have a better spring and fall than Doughty.

“He’s had a tremendous camp, and the sky is kind of the limit for that kid. We’ll see how he progresses in football games, but what he’s done in camp is very impressive,” USU head coach Gary Andersen said.

Filimoeatu – who was second on the team in 2011 with 11 tackles for loss and tied for second on the team with three sacks – was also impressed with Fackrell and what he brings to the table.

“Kyler, rushing off the edge with his size and his speed, and he’s so young,” Filimoeatu said. “At that age, with his ability to do that, I think he will give the crowd a big show and have a lot of fans by the end of the season.”

Backing up those first four, is more depth and talent. Despite losing Maurice Alexander to legal trouble, and Parker Hausknecht leaving the team, the Aggies still have plenty to work with. At the inside linebacker spot, Zach Vigil is another junior that has excelled during the offseason and is expected to have a big impact. Easing the loss of Alexander and Hausknecht is the more recent addition of junior Cade Cowdin.

Cowdin is a transfer from Oregon State, but is originally from St. George. The Aggies weren’t sure if and when Cowdin would be eligible, but he was just granted a special waiver by the NCAA this week, and will be in the two-deep rotation at inside linebacker.

“It’s a different type than last year where we had two stars, and maybe now we have deeper talent,” Clune said. “It’s encouraging because of the way these guys work. The way that Tavaris and Jake and Vigil have worked makes me believe that they’re going to show up every game and it’s going to be right.”

At the outside backer spot, junior Terrell Thompson brings a different look than either Filimoeatu or Fackrell, as he is a converted defensive back. Sophomore Jefferson Court will also be part of the two-deep rotation on the outside for the Aggies.

“They did a great job. In the offseason, they picked up the plays, they worked hard in the summer and it showed up in camp,” Filimoeatu said. “With us veterans, you expect that from the younger guys, and when they stepped up and played that role, it made our defense even better.”

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