LOGAN, Utah – Week two of spring ball is officially in the books following Utah State’s first scrimmage Saturday on Merlin Olsen Field at Maverik Stadium.
First-year head coach Gary Andersen, who is in his fifth year overall in charge of the Aggies, ran his team through roughly 70 plays on Saturday. Not only was he pleased with the weather, but he was also pleased with the way his team performed.
“It was another beautiful day in Cache Valley and that’s a huge positive,” Andersen said. “It was a good day and overall, we got the amount of snaps we wanted. I thought about mid-60 and that’s we’re we ended up. There was great competition and the offense took care of business. Defensively, I thought we bowed up down here in the back end and got a big turnover. The key is to break down those tapes as a staff on Monday morning and do the exact same thing with those kids when they walk back in here on Monday afternoon to make sure we’re making the strides we need in order to take it to Tuesday’s practice. We are a couple of weeks in and it’s a good place to be. There is a lot of work to do, which there always is.”
Junior quarterback Jordan Love led the offense on a pair of scoring drives Saturday. Love capped one of the drives with a touchdown run, while freshman running back Enoch Nawahine ended the other drive with a touchdown run of his own.
“Camp is going really well,” said senior running back Gerold Bright. “I love the coaches’ philosophy. Coach Andersen is a great leader and all of the guys love him. I love our coaching staff and the unity with them. We’re just focusing on getting better, executing every play and excelling every time we step foot on the field.”
Redshirt freshman quarterback Andrew Peasley orchestrated a scoring drive, as well, capped by a touchdown run from junior running back Chase Nelson.
Defensively, senior linebacker Braden Harris was the recipient of the only turnover in the scrimmage as he recovered a fumble during a backed-up scenario.
Junior wide receiver Taylor Compton had several nice catches on the day. He liked what he saw from the offense, but he knows there is plenty of room for improvement.
“I’m really excited about how camp is going so far,” said Compton. “I like the competitive atmosphere we have going on. We have a lot of things to prove. We had a lot of offensive linemen, receivers and production that left. I really like the attitude from the guys that come into work and are proving themselves. That’s the attitude I really like. Last year was last year. I love the attitude the guys are coming into work every day knowing that they have something to prove, because everybody has something to prove. It doesn’t matter who it is and that comes from our leadership, from Jordan Love, Gerold (Bright) and the guys that have been there. They still have things to prove that they want to get better at, and that example leaks over to us and everyone else. There’s a lot of opportunities and I like the competitive nature of the offense and the defense just trying to find ways to get on the field in that competitive atmosphere.”
As Utah State prepares for the 2019 campaign, the Aggies return nine starters (O-2, D-7) as part of 35 letterwinners (O-15, D-18, S-2), including two All-Americans and eight players that earned various all-Mountain West honors, from last year’s team that ended the season ranked 21st in the final Amway Coaches poll and 22nd in the final Associated Press poll.
The Aggies tied the school record for wins and best record in 2018 with an 11-2 mark following their 52-13 win against North Texas in the New Mexico Bowl. Utah State also tied for first place in the Mountain Division of the Mountain West with a 7-1 record.
Utah State also welcomes back 29 players (O-14, D-12, S-3) that redshirted last season, to go along with 13 more players (O-6, D-5, S-2) that were members of the team in 2018. Of those 42 players listed above, 26 saw action last season with 24 appearing in multiple games. The Aggies also welcome 14 newcomers to the squad this spring, including five junior college transfers and nine incoming freshmen.
Highlighting Utah State’s returners in 2019 are two players that earned All-America honors a season ago in junior WR/KR Savon Scarver and junior LB David Woodward. Scarver was tabbed a first-team All-American from the Walter Camp Football Foundation, the Football Writers Association of America and Phil Steele’s Magazine, and earned second-team All-American honors from the American Football Coaches Association.
Woodward was named a first-team All-American by ProFootballFocus.com and a third-team All-American by The Associated Press. Scarver was also named first-team all-Mountain West as a kick returner, while Woodward earned second-team all-conference accolades.
Six other returning Aggies earned various all-Mountain West honors a year ago as senior LB Tipa Galeai and junior QB Jordan Love were both named to the second team, while senior PK Dominik Eberle, senior DE Fua Leilua, senior DT Christopher ’Unga and senior CB DJ Williams all garnered honorable mention honors.
“Everything has been fast this spring, but one thing about the defense is, I really believe that we’re going against the best quarterback and the best offense in the conference. They go really fast, so it’s not only is conditioning us, it’s getting us ready for any team in the nation. We’re making progress and we’re not where we want to be at, but we’re good and have plenty of time to fix the mistakes we made. We’ll go in the film room and correct the mistakes.”
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Head Coach Gary Andersen
On any solidification on the starting offensive line, linebackers and wide receivers:
“David Woordward played very well today at the linebacker spot and it was good to see. Kevin Meitzenheimer did a nice job and it was his time today to walk in and be a leader. When Woodward is not there, the leadership goes right to Kevin. I thought he did a nice job of handling and communicating up front. That’s the next linebacker up and it’s still wide open. It’s going to be a fight to continue through. The offensive line, you look hard to find eight guys you feel good about. That’s a great spot to be and that’s a work in progress as we continue to work. Coach (TJ) Woods is very optimistic about the crew. There’s not any lack of work or lack of want in those kids. We’ll continue to work through that. The next spot at running back is the big question. We’re very careful with Gerold Bright and we gave him a couple of light carries today. That was about a wrap for him and we need to find a separation with the second and third running back, because in our opinion as a staff, we need to have three running backs you feel good about. We’re excited to continue to work through that progress.”
On how much spring is more of working on themes or working on spots for people to start:
“It’s both. It’s technique, fundamentals, first and foremost. The one thing it is not is scheming each other on offense and defense, trying to win the drill because of coaching points. It’s not this play to beat this coverage. You’re playing based off of base defense and make sure we’re working on techniques and fundamentals. The movement in the positions is that you earn your spot in spring football if you’re on this football team. It’s a blessing and an honor to be on the practice field for these kids. We have some young men that got back today for the first time in spring that understand that you have to do things right to get on the field. They seem to be handling that very well and spring is a great time to work on all of those things.”
On wanting pace from today’s scrimmage:
“No doubt. You saw a drill that we did, and it was a snap the ball, no contact and its a pace drill where we get them to line up. It’s difficult again with what we did in the offseason in the winter conditioning program. Big, strong, fast and smart was our goal. When we get into the third week of spring, we’re in better shape than where we were in the first two weeks. Today, we wanted to push that pace a lit bit and let the offense play fast. It’s very obvious that this offense likes to play fast. They get some snaps on you and get four or five reps down the field, they smell blood in the water. You want to make sure that we give them those opportunities as much as we can as we continue through spring. Also be smart with the number of reps. We may have gone 90 reps today if we were huddled up on offense and ready, set, hit. When you’re playing pace, you have to be careful with the conditioning of those kids and making sure you do what you can to let them mentally and physically be prepared to play the snap.”
On working with the defensive line:
“We have a lot of nagging injuries and a couple that we knew of coming into today. Tipa Galeai is getting back now and we’re going to be careful with him. Fua Leilua is getting back and he’ll be 100 percent ready to go in the fall. We’re down on numbers, which has given a young man like Braden Harris a lot of opportunities to play defensive end and defensive tackle. We got Jake Pitcher back in today and he comes in and hasn’t done much in spring. He gets cleared, he comes in and plays defensive end and defensive tackle. It’s been awesome to have all of those guys. Being in a room is special for me and I always try and find a way to be in a room with those guys.”
Senior Running Back Gerold Bright
On having younger running backs on this team:
“There’s pros and cons to having younger running backs. They don’t have a lot of reps, but one thing that’s a positive about having younger guys is they don’t have things that has to be re-coached and bad habits they have to break. We’re teaching them good things and they’re going to keep studying their playbook and learning their techniques.”
On some of the younger guys on the offensive line that have made a name for themselves through the first two weeks of spring camp:
“I look at them as a unit and how they work together. They are all playing great. I can’t really pin-point one guy because they’re all putting forth the effort and coming together as one. They are all sacrificing and working together. It’s all about a team concept and working together. Individually, Andy Koch and Jacob South are showing up in my eyes pretty well. I hope they keep on excelling and do better.”
On the defense being just as physical as they were last season:
“I love the defense. The defensive backs are amazing, the linebackers are playing with great force and I love the defensive line. We’re going up against great people and great competition, which makes us better. That’s the only thing that matters.”
On the performance from the offense in today’s scrimmage:
“We weren’t the best and we gave up a turnover. We have to protect the ball a lot more. We have to give Jordan (Love) some time to throw it. We have to open up the lanes for the running backs, get through the holes and make explosive runs. We have a lot to do, but we’re not too far off.”
Junior Wide Receiver Taylor Compton
On competing for a spot with the wide receivers:
“We had a lot of production from last year that is gone. The door is wide open and we have a lot of guys coming back. Savon Scarver and Jordan Nathan have been big production guys for us. Other than that, we have a lot of holes to fill and it’s a great opportunity for all of us in the room to take advantage of the opportunities we are given and make the most of it. The guys are in there working every day. We have a lot of work to do, but it’s good. The guys are coming in with the right attitude and they want to work. I hope we get better and I believe we will.”
On your performance from today’s scrimmage:
“It goes back to my teammates. The offensive line played phenomenal today with the pace, especially talking about a group that people say we need a lot of holes filled in that position. They played wonderful today and started up front, let the quarterback have time and it was a team effort out there. Jordan (Love), Henry (Colombi) and Andrew (Peasley) are just throwing the ball and I’m getting to where I need to be. It’s a credit to those guys that allow us on the edge to make plays. When everybody does their job, it allows us to get open and to catch the ball. That’s our job on the field is to go catch the ball. When your teammates are doing that for you, it makes it a lot easier for sure.”
On whether it’s different getting into a groove when playing with three quarterbacks in a scrimmage:
“They have different styles and different things they do, but every day, we’re taking balls and reps from them every single day. As for me personally, I have a great relationship with every one of those guys and trust all of those guys when they’re throwing. I have a lot of comfort with them with all of the work we’ve done with them in the off-season and practices. It’s kind of effortless and that’s how the team is having the next guy up mentality. Whoever is in there has to perform. It doesn’t matter who it is and I feel like we have a great rhythm with all of those guys, regardless.”
On Andrew Peasley’s performance today:
“Andrew is playing great. I feel like he has made huge strides, not only in the fall, but coming into this spring. He’s going to turn into a great player for us and he’s becoming that. I’m really proud of his progress and I’m finding myself open a lot of times with him. He’s giving me great balls and I’m proud of the way he’s worked and the progress he’s making. I’m excited to see what he’s going to keep doing.”
Senior Cornerback DJ Williams
On breaking up and high-pointing balls as a defense:
“That was good and that was something we worked on all week. Coach (Mark) Orphey told us we really need to work on ball skills and fades. We did two ball drills today and we also worked on in-fade drills. That’s something you see the drill translate to the field and that was good to see. We’re going to keep getting better at that.”
On younger players in the defensive back field:
“Our whole back-end is new, besides Cameron (Haney). Even if they’re not young, everybody is young because they don’t have that much experience. They really like to learn and that’s really what I like. They come to practice every day, work hard, they’re in the film room all the time and they’re going to get better. Some that stick out to me are Andre Grayson and Zahodri Jackson. That’s who I’m in the room with and they really want to learn and will get better every day.”
On having more responsibility on defense with the departures from last year:
“I feel like I have to step up and be a leader. I did get voted captain and of course people are going to look at me when. I like that roll and that’s something I take pride in. I really feel like I’ve been doing good at it, but I haven’t been doing great at it. That’s one thing I have to look in the mirror at myself and get better at. I can be honest with myself and I’m doing what I should be doing, but I’m going get better at it.”
On what you can improve in being a leader:
“Just being more vocal and that’s the main thing. The physical part, skill and talent, is something that God blessed me with.”
On Coach Gary Andersen leading the program:
“I love Coach A. I remember when he first got the job on the first day, he called me when I was back at home. When he called me, that showed me that he cares. He took the time out of his own time to call me, I’m sure everybody else too. Coach A is a player’s coach and he’s been getting things done since I got here, with new the locker room and little stuff like that. It’s the little things that matter to me and he’s really been taking care of us.”
On anything new with defensive since last year:
“The base coverages are new. I played corner last year and I’m playing nickel this year. I played a little nickel last year and we’re playing a lot of cover two. We have a lot of time to work on it and we’re going to get better at it. I feel like I’ve adjusted to it good, but not great. I’m still learning every day and I know I’m not perfect. Thankfully, I have coaches that are patient with me and the rest of my teammates. One thing we can control is our attitude and effort and that’s one thing I feel like we’re all doing good at.”
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)