Spring games are always just for spectacle. For fans, they’re a small taste of football in the doldrums of the offseason. No matter the previous season, the Spring game is a chance to build up hopes for the coming season. That incoming freshman could definitely become the playmaker the offense needs to take flight. That one senior who will now be thrust into a starting role will certainly become the defensive leader of the team. It’s football through rose-colored glasses.
The reality is that there are few things that can be learned from Spring games. Offensive and defensive lines are a little more reserved. Quarterbacks are entirely off-limits for contact. Gleaning information of how the roster will look come September is extremely difficult.That holds especially true for Utah State this year, with head coach Gary Andersen opting for a less-traditional rotating lineup instead of a traditional straight first- and second-team lineups.
Even so, there are several items of interest after Saturday’s scrimmage on Merlin Olsen Field. Here are my three takeaways following Utah State’s Spring game.
Will Savon Scarver step up into the No. 1 wide receiver role?
Let’s not mince words here. USU lost Ron’quavion Tarver and Jalen Greene from last year to graduation and the offense will feel those losses this coming season. The Aggies need to replace nearly 1,400 yards in receiving next season, and while that will require multiple players stepping up to fill the void, they will need one or two to take on the bulk of that load.
Savon Scarver looked to be submitting his resume for that role on Saturday. Already an All-American as a return specialist, we’ve always known Scarver to be a speedster on the field, capable of taking the top off any defense for a deep ball at any moment. Scarver’s underneath game, however, hasn’t always showcased the same level of talent.
On Saturday, Scarver still showed everyone that no one can stay stride-for-stride with him on a go route, but it was his work closer to the line of scrimmage that caught my eye. Most importantly was Scarver’s use of his body to shield off defenders to make catches in traffic. Both Greene and Tarver were experts at doing so on slant and hook routes. Scarver looks to be following in the same footsteps, and for USU, that is a very promising development.
Maybe the secondary isn’t that far off the front-seven?
Granted, the front-seven wasn’t going 100 percent on Saturday, making this comparison all but impossible until September. However, the secondary did look promising. DJ Williams, Shaq Bond and JaMarcus Ingram all return to lead a group that already is carrying some swagger. The secondary made several interceptions on the day, including a near pick-six from Braxton Gunther. Impressive showings from Cameron Haney and Zahodri Jackson also bode well for a unit that needs to replace contributors from last year like Deante Fortenberry and Jontrell Rocquemore.
The strength of USU’s defense will emanate from Tipa Galeai and David Woodward leading the front-seven. But there’s a wide range of outcome for this defense spanning from merely good to suffocating and dominant. If this secondary turns into a ball-hawking unit that feasts off the disruption caused by the front-seven, then this defense becomes one of the best in the Mountain West.
Gary Andersen has brought a lot of excitement to Logan
Okay, this isn’t about the roster itself and is kind of a cop-out, but let’s take a minute to recognize that there was a solid crowd of Aggie fans out in a rainy day to watch a Spring practice. There honestly may have been more fans at Maverik Stadium on Saturday than there were for several actual games a decade ago.
I still have a number of questions about Andersen’s second tenure as USU’s head coach, and we should all be cautious of expecting the same results as his first go-around, but so far, Andersen’s checking off all the boxes on Aggie fans’ wishlists. A terrific recruiting class is now Logan-bound. Two games versus Power-5 teams are on next season’s schedule. Nearly every former Aggie that made it to the NFL, from Al Smith to Donald Penn to Bobby Wagner, made an appearance on Saturday.
We’ll see what Andersen’s on-field product looks like in a few months. At the very least, though, a lot of Aggie Nation is on pins and needles waiting to see it.