Utah State football: Zach Vigil leading Aggies’ defense with gusto
Given task of replacing Bobby Wagner, inside linebacker has thrived.
Published: September 27, 2012 09:16AM
Updated: September 26, 2012 11:19PM
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Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune Utah State linebacker Zach Vigil celebrates a third-down stop against Utah in Logan on Sept. 7, 2012.

Logan • Always intense, even off the field, Zach Vigil had no real interest in fielding the question.

Unfortunately for the Utah State junior linebacker, the data on him is four games old and expanding by the week. When the Aggies battle UNLV on Saturday night at Romney Stadium, Vigil will take the field as arguably the team’s best defender.

A former walk-on who’s struggled with injury issues, Vigil entered this season expecting to contribute, but not as a starter. He’s blossomed into a beast at middle linebacker — the spot Seattle Seahawks rookie Bobby Wagner use to inhabit.

Vigil grimaces when asked about “replacing” Wagner, who starts for the Seahawks.

“Let’s not get into that,” he said. “Bobby’s a great player, and we all know that. But I’m just doing what I can to help the team. We have other great middle linebackers, and they are all stepping up and playing good football right now. So it’s not just me.”

Vigil has a team-high three sacks and 5.5 tackles for loss this season, and he’s second on the team with 29 tackles overall. He also has a forced fumble, and his blocked punt led to USU’s first touchdown in the win over Utah.

Those numbers aren’t bad for someone who played four games in 2011 and recorded four tackles all season.

“He’s just been tremendous for us,” Utah State head coach Gary Andersen said. “He’s really played well, and he understands what we want to do defensively. He knows the scheme, and he’s improved tremendously in the offseason.”

Vigil’s performance is so startling that the projected starter at that spot, sophomore Tavaris McMillian, has played sparingly. McMillian, a sophomore who played a significant role as a freshman, will probably be moved back to his natural position, outside linebacker, in the offseason, Andersen said.

In a year where many wondered just how Andersen was going to replace Wagner, Vigil has provided the answer with force. He earned conference Player of the Week honors for his performance against Colorado State last weekend. He is also now firmly entrenched in the starting role, next to his good friend Jake Doughty, who plays the other inside linebacker spot.

tjones@sltrib.com

Zach Vigil file

High school • A two-time all-state selection at Clearfield

2009 • Redshirted

2010 • Dressed, but didn’t play

2011 • Played in four games

2012 • Has 29 tackles and three sacks through four games

UNLV at Utah St.

P Saturday, 6 p.m.

Online • ESPN3.com