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Utah State mailbag: Injury updates, stopping Taysom Hill and more

Published September 30, 2013 7:17 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Logan • Another week of Aggie football, and another mailbag. It should be a fun week with BYU in Logan and the runner-up to the Beehive Boot at stake (Is that the Beehive Bootheel? The Beehive Sole? The Beehive Knee-High Sock? These are my questions to you, readers). It'll be a sold-out crowd on Friday as the Aggies look for their first win against the Cougars since 2010.

As you'll see in a second, the injury situation is a little tricky for Utah State, with at least two guys "day-to-day" for this week, but we'll get to that in a second. Remember you can always tweet at me with your mailbag questions, or e-mail me at kgoon@sltrib.com.

Here's some of the burning questions about football (and basketball!) that Aggies fans have:

curious on Joe Hills status for the game this week #mailbag - @DevinSheffield

Will Conner [sic] Williams be back for the BYU game? - @nedadams

Let's deal with these first: Not sure.

Matt Wells has simply said "day-to-day" injuries for both of these guys. Wells doesn't really discuss injuries with the media unless they are season ending, like Kyle Whimpey or Bryce Walker. The day-to-day tag could apply to a guy who has been out for weeks like Williams or a guy who returned in one week like Hill.

Everyone's curious to see if they can be available for one of the biggest games of the year this Friday. Williams was a captain for the San Jose State game but never put on pads or a helment. Hill played after an early exit against USC, but again had an early exit against SJSU pulling up lame in the third quarter after having some room to run early.

Reading between the lines, if either was done for the year, Wells would've said it. Although Joey DeMartino has come on as featured back material, and the defensive line has survived and even thrived in some games without Williams, the Aggies want both those guys back. It wouldn't surprise me to see both suit up if they're feeling up to it, or even mostly up to it.

B.J. Larsen had this to say about Williams' role off the field since being injured: "I wouldn't count him out of what we're doing. Even though he's not playing with us on the field, he still has a large leadership role on the defensive front. He's on the sidelines, he's at practice, and he's doing his regular leadership role. He's encouraging, he's coaching. I know he doesn't want me to say 'coaching,' because he doesn't want to be considered a coach. He's definitely helping us perform where we need to be, but I definitely miss him out on the field and we'll be excited to get him back."

Do you believe if USU's defense can stop Hill, it will limit byu's potency? Put Mo Alexander in a 1:1 with Hill as a spy defender of sorts. How does USU defend Hill? - Michael (Pocatello, Idaho)

Great question that I don't necessarily have the right answer to, because Utah State is going to keep their gameplan tight. But yes, Hill is the key to BYU's offense. When he had big numbers against Texas and Middle Tennessee State, the Cougars won easily. You hate to break games down to one thing, but I would say that this game hinges on if Utah State can stop Hill more than any one factor.

I would guess Maurice Alexander could come in as an extra linebacker, essentially, like he did against Air Force. However he lines up, he'll probably be a big factor in how this team stops the run. In my admittedly layman's Xs and Os comprehension, the read option essentially tries to create numbers mismatches with one more player than a front seven usually must account for in the run game (the quarterback). There will probably be a lot of plays in which Alexander will have to be the eighth guy who brings down Hill.

The Aggies will also be pressured to shed blockers and make the tackle, and Zach Vigil and Jake Doughty have certainly played well to that point this year. Utah State will also have to be prepared to get him if he needs to scramble out of the pocket. The good thing for the Aggies is they haven't been beaten a lot by long runs, and they move to the edge rushes pretty well.

The Aggies have allowed 126.6 rush yards per game this season, good for No. 38 in the country, and you expect a team like BYU to eclipse that average. But like last week, a lot will probably come down to red zone possessions and if Utah State can stop Hill's run when the Cougars have chances to score. It will be interesting to see strength matched against strength in that respect.

Here's Larsen again, this time on Hill: "We're going to be able to scheme to the point when we can contain him. We're going to be able to do what we need to as a defensive front, and as a front seven to be able to stop the run. That's always our No. 1 objective - don't let anyone establish the run - and it's what we do best."

Sean Harris was hoping to get two years of eligibility, yet the USU Athletics web site lists him as a senior. Did he not get the second year granted? - Kent

The thing you have to remember about Sean Harris is that he hasn't played basketball in a long time, at least in live competition. The Aggies aren't sure how much he'll impact the team this year. This isn't me being harsh - this is what the coaching staff has said. With his knee injuries, Utah State is lucky if he can play a full year this season and contribute significantly.

He'll be playing minutes at the four-spot this year, and what role he carves out remains to be seen. Stew Morrill said Harris is still favoring his (most recently) uninjured leg, and the Aggies aren't quite sure how he'll contribute. The staff likes that he's working hard and keeping focused, but I think it's hard for Utah State to count on him being able to contribute next year if things are still up in the air for this season. I'm not sure exactly if he could still get another year of eligibility, but as long as he can play this year and graduate, that's probably the best the Aggies can hope for right now.

That being said, Harris is definitely within the fabric of the team. He's good friends with them and can be seen with his teammates a lot around campus, a guy who is definitely comfortable with his role and his place with the Aggies. You can see that he's lively on the bench, and cheers the team on. He's engaged despite the discouraging injuries that have plagued him.

Coming back from such injuries can be tough, and it can be trying to watch so often from the bench, but coaches agree that he's made the most of his time at Utah State. You wonder if some of that energy and spirit can help translate into a successful season this year.

Here's some of what Stew Morrill said last week: "Sean Harris is another matter. He's never gotten to the floor. He's got two ACLs. He's on the floor now, and he has a tremendous attitude now trying to figure how he can contribute to this team, but there's no question that he favors that leg. It might be physical and mental. You've got to look at it like he hasn't played in a long, long time. So you can't expect him to just to be out there and not favor that with two ACL surgeries. But it's pretty admirable that he feels like he can help our team and he's trying to."

That's it for this week. Keep tuning into the Aggieville blog and the Tribune for more Utah State coverage.

— Kyle Goonkgoon@sltrib.comTwitter: @kylegoon