Faster than a speeding bullet.
More powerful than a locomotive.
Able to traverse long football fields with a single throw.
Is it Superman? Not quite. It’s the Utah State football team’s new offense under coach Blake Anderson and offensive coordinator Anthony Tucker.
Anderson and his staff have already outlined their vision of how they want to resurrect an Aggies team that has performed below expectations for the last two seasons and was mired in controversy earlier this year. But lately, the players have gotten their first taste of the new offense with the return of spring practices after they were canceled last year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“When I’m playing in the offense,” senior wide receiver Jordan Nathan said, “I’m tired as hell.”
That’s the kind of breakneck speed with which the Aggies want to play offense in 2021. So fast it takes players sprinting everywhere they go during practices to get conditioned for it. So fast it hopes to make opposing defenses defenseless. So fast that players won’t use huddles between plays.
Nathan described the new offense as “exhilarating” to watch. Junior quarterback Andrew Peasley said it was like “chaos, but under control.”
“If you don’t know what’s going on, it’s going to look kind of wacky,” senior offensive lineman Alfred Edwards said.
Utah State’s offense, players say, will resemble the style it played as recently as 2018, when David Yost coordinated and now-Green Bay Packer Jordan Love quarterbacked. That team was known for several scoring drives that lasted less a minute and even a game where it amassed more than 700 yards of total offense.
In the two subsequent seasons, however, the Aggies produced much less under Gary Andersen and his staff, leading to a good-but-not-great season in 2019 and a slow start in the pandemic-riddled 2020 that left Andersen without a job.
But so far, this year is different. Although players wanted former interim coach Frank Maile as their coach after Andersen’s firing, Anderson appears to be making a positive on-field impact on the squad after just a few practices and one scrimmage this spring.
Peasley said he loves the new offense so far, particularly because of how it can potentially flummox defenses.
“As a quarterback, it wears the defense out,” Peasley said. “The [defensive] linemen can’t even get set and then we’re just running it up the gut and they can’t do anything. That’s just very satisfying as an offensive player to see that.”
Edwards is grateful the team gets to have spring practices this year. With a new offense to implement, it gives the Aggies a chance to work out the kinks and also for his compatriots on the offensive line to perfect new footwork schemes he said have been implemented.
Edwards said this year’s offensive pace is demonstrably different than last year’s, which he described as “slow.” While it’s been more of an adjustment for younger players on the team, he is at least somewhat accustomed to the pace because he played on the 2018 team.
But Edwards is still experiencing a learning curve.
“It’s mostly just getting your muscle memory to run to the ball without even thinking about it,” Edwards said.
Nathan was also on the 2018 Aggies. While he welcomes a return to a fast-paced offense and the potential for explosive and difference-making plays, he indicated that what’s more important is the team to take care of the ball and not put so much pressure on the defense this year.
“We’ll take the 30-second drive and touchdown and stuff like that,” Nathan said. “But if we can keep the ball and go down there and just keep the defense off the field and score points, that’s all the goal is.”