Extra thoughts from Utah State's spring football game
Logan • Call it a last fix, if you want. Utah State football won't go dark, but the Aggies aren't going to be practicing with coaches for the next few months. And fans won't get much football.
But the Spring Game offered some food for thought between now and August. There will be more to digest over the summer, and all exhibitions should be taken with a grain of salt, but here are some things rattling around the noggin after watching Utah State play in the closest thing it'll have to a game until it goes to Rice-Eccles Stadium (it'll be here before you know it):
No need to worry about linebackers • The middle of this defense is clearly its strength. Joe Hill couldn't get going, getting only 28 yards on eight carries. It's not nothing, but it's not good. And where the unit really stood out was rushing the passer. Jake Doughty, Kyler Fackrell and Nick Vigil were all in the backfield, and that was just on first-string rotation. The depth here is solid.
Offensive line depth is spotty • On the other side, Utah State is still fighting to get its offensive line depth in order. Matt Wells said he was trying different looks, and players such as Eric Schultz and Jamie Markosian got a lot of sideline time. But Wells also acknowledged that didn't explain all the pressure in the backfield. Chuckie Keeton and Craig Harrison had to roll out of the pocket often. The line has to hang in there against the rush, and not let free blitzers put their mitts on the passer.
The secondary has some swagger • Tay Glover-Wright had the pick, but that wasn't the only highlight of the sometimes lapse-prone defensive backfield. After getting picked apart in last week's scrimmage, the corners and safeties responded Saturday with sacks, picks and pass break-ups. On one memorable break-up on Alex Wheat on a third down, Rashard Stewart finger-wagged his way off the field. This is a hitting unit, one that isn't afraid to get physical or show some attitude. There's good potential there if they can improve on generating turnovers.
Some answers at receiver • Travis Van Leeuwen and Brandon Swindall are distinguishing themselves at receiver. Van Leeuwen did have some drops - the worst of which was on a trick play that could've netted a touchdown - but was clearly Keeton's receiver of choice when the pass rush came. There's a lot of trust there. Swindall wrapped up a great spring with four catches, and his size and hands make him special. He'll have some plays drawn up for him this fall. In all, however, there's still too many drops. This might be a position that could be shaken up by the summer arrivals.
Don't snooze on DeMartino • The race hasn't been scintillating for back-up running back, but Joey DeMartino has definitely put in his chips on that one. With Robert Marshall, Kelvin Lee and Abou Toure dinged up at various times, DeMartino performed well the last two weeks, culminating with 100 yards in the spring game. Sure it was against the second-team defense, but the Aggie senior has shown grit and hustle on his runs, and even in a crowded backfield, he looks like someone who will get touches somehow.
Appreciating history matters • The team took the time to invite former lettermen to Logan, then lined them up in the north end zone as every current player shook hands with every former player. The Aggies haven't had the best football history as a program, with more than a few years mired in losing. But as an alum himself, it's clear that Matt Wells is trying to get his group to appreciate that every team that came before helped create this one. Building that appreciation for history inspires the new players, but also allows the old ones to feel a part of the exciting squad now taking the field.
Lots of evaluation left to be done • Wells and staff feel like they have a good idea of what they have. Now it's time to start judging how that will mesh with the talent coming in. Wells acknowledged he's expecting the junior college players and a handful of prep recruits to compete for starting spots. Over the summer, the staff will be trying to get a feel for how that talent measures up and who could be a contributor who hasn't yet taken the field.
Kyle Goonkgoon@sltrib.comTwitter: @kylegoon
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