Logan • Utah State receiver JoJo Natson remains off limits to media members following his legal issues this summer. However, the junior continues to make a big statement with his play.
Natson, who recently pleaded guilty to theft from a teammate, helped the offense get off to a great start in Saturday’s scrimmage.
He caught the opening pass and completed the drive with a touchdown catch via Chuckie Keeton. It appears, as Utah State coach Matt Wells had hoped, that Natson is more focused than ever.
Natson led the Aggies last year with 59 receptions for 395 yards and two touchdowns last year.
“He us doing a better job of catching the ball with his hands in front of his body,” Wells said. “He has really improved that the last couple of weeks.”
Utah State’s offense in general had a good showing, although Wells said the No. 1 defense had some of the better moments.
“No one won the day really and that’s the way it should be,” he said.
Running back Joe Hill was productive again, making a nice reception and bulldozing his way through the Aggies’ defense on several occasions.
“He is playing really well now,” Wells said. “He was making some good cuts.”
With just two weeks to go until the opener at Tennessee, Wells said the Aggies will start focusing on cleaning up their offense and roles in the coming week.
“I’m excited,” he said. “We’ve exceeded expectations in some ways with our younger players. We have two or three who are banged up we wish weren’t banged up, but that is life in the fast lane with a physical camp. We wish that wasn’t the case but it is. Now we have to continue to clean up some of our roles and offense so we can be more consistent.”
Alex Huerta, a 6-foot-2, 223-pound redshirt freshman slotted to start at outside linebacker for the Aggies, watched from the sidelines with his left arm tucked inside his jersey following shoulder surgery that will keep him out for the year.
Huerta was dubbed one of the most improved players on the team and was expected to have a big impact.
“He is a tremendous young kid with a bright future and he is going to be missed,” Wells said.
His backup on the depth chart is Ian Tagiai, a 6-foot-2,230-pound freshman from West Valley City, but Wells said all of the linebackers are versatile enough to fill in for him.
“Thank goodness LT Filiaga is playing well and we have Chase Christiansen, Torrey Green, and Nick and Zach Vigil can play different positions and Kyler Fackrell,” Wells said. “They are all interchangeable.”
On the opponent
Wells said there wasn’t an advantage really to knowing who the starting quarterback will be for Tennessee after Butch Jones announced Thursday that senior Justin Worley will start against Utah State when the teams meet on Aug. 31.
He beat out Joshua Dobbs and Nathan Peterman for the job.
“We’ll prepare for both,” Wells said of Worley and the backups. “We may not see both, but we do what we do on defense.”
Like Keeton, Worley’s 2013 season ended early. He was sidelined with a thumb injury in October, finishing his season completing 55.6 percent of his passes with 10 touchdowns and eight interceptions for 1,239 yards in his seven starts.
The Vols ranked a meager 111th in the Football Bowl Subdivision teams in passing efficiency last season (191-of-344 passing, 1,979 yds., 12 TDs, 17 INTs) and were 13th out of 14 SEC teams with just 164.9 passing yards per game.
Who was hot • JoJo Natson caught the first pass of the scrimmage then scored the first touchdown as he and Chuckie Keeton hooked up several times.
Who was missed • The Aggies held out linebacker Nick Vigil and defensive end B.J. Larsen along with offensive linemen Taani Fisilau and Austin Stephens for precautionary reasons.
What is next • The Aggies have two-a-days on Monday and Thursday and another scrimmage on Tuesday starting at 6 p.m.