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Optimism catchy in Cache Valley

Published April 26, 2010 12:01 am

USU football » Could the Aggies make their first bowl game since 1997?
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2010, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

In Logan and around Cache Valley, optimism about the upcoming season is the highest that it's been in years.

And despite the loss of star running back Robert Turbin, there does seem to be good reason for the good feeling. If spring football for Utah State is any indication, the Aggie offense has the ability to score a lot of points this season.

Defensively, while USU still isn't where Aggies coach Gary Andersen wants his team to be, there has been improvement in the pass rush and in the defensive backfield. What does this mean for the fall? That question won't be answered until the time comes. But talk of qualifying for a bowl game for the first time since 1997 has been a prevalent topic within the program and its fan base.

"The most important thing is that the guys worked hard for 15 practices," Andersen said when asked about Utah State's spring. "I can only recall one practice that I cut short because I didn't think the guys were working hard enough. That's a great thing. I thought that the guys really made progress."

If there was a difference between spring football of this year and last, it's that the Aggies appear to be a much deeper team. Two positions, running back and receiver, seem to bear that out.

With Turbin on the mend due to a torn anterior cruciate ligament, Derrvin Speight, Kerwynn Williams and Michael Smith have all had good moments and have showed the ability to contribute heavily in the running game.

Meanwhile, the receivers have distinguished themselves as a deep group with speed and the ability to make plays after the catch.

"I love what the receivers have brought to the table," USU quarterback Diondre Borel said. "They've played well, and we're really getting comfortable with each other."

Defensively, the linebacking corps of Bobby Wagner, Junior Keiaho and Kyle Gallagher appears to be the strongest group. Sean Enesi had a very solid spring at defensive tackle and Curtis Marsh played well at cornerback.

As a unit, the defense drew praise from Andersen for its aggressiveness and for making plays and challenging the offense in all three scrimmages.

"Last spring, the offense dominated," Andersen said.

If there is a problem spot, it appears to be at backup quarterback. Jeff Fischer has improved over the month of spring practice, but Andersen has stated that he plans on opening up the competition to be Borel's backup among the trio of Fischer and incoming freshmen Alex Hart and Jeremy Higgins.

"The kids understand what's expected of them," Andersen said. "That's a big thing. I thought the leadership was tremendous and I thought there were a lot of positives."

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Optimism catchy in Cache Valley

USU spring football roundup

Offense

The rundown » The shift comes with Diondre Borel, who takes on the mantle of leader while Robert Turbin continues to heal from a knee injury. Borel has been much improved throwing from the pocket, and we all know what he can do when he's on the move.

Who made progress? » The receiver corps went from mediocre last season to potentially game-breaking this upcoming year. Stanley Morrison has made huge strides while Dontel Watkins and Xavier Martin add breakaway speed.

Where the question mark is » The offensive line, porous last season, is still an issue. Tyler Larson, a freshman center, looks to be a keeper. Former Juan Diego star Jamie Markosian will be in the mix as well.

Defense

The rundown » More speed, bigger linebackers and more depth have made the defense better this spring. For as much as the offense had its way last year, the defense definitely had its moments.

Who made progress? » Maxim Dinka-Mba is small for a defensive end, but he broke out as a speed rusher and will surely see a ton of time in that role this upcoming season.

Where the question mark is » Replacing safety James Brindley -- who signed a free-agent deal with the Seattle Seahawks on Saturday night after the NFL Draft -- will be an issue and the defensive backfield as a whole still needs depth and athleticism. Cameron Sanders has moved to cornerback from receiver.