Yesterday in a one-on-one interview, new Aggie OC David Yost said something so succinctly and so confidently it couldn’t even be misinterpreted as merely “coach speak” — his aim this season is simply to make Utah State the most efficient offense in the country.
I can almost hear the sound most of you just made at your iPhones as you finished reading my splashy lede.
Look, I get it. Many Aggie fans still stinging from 2016’s 3-9 campaign are taking the “under” this season, claiming my typical role as village pessimist for themselves. That leaves me the new and exciting job of shining a little light on potentially exciting advancements in USU football, and there are more of those than you might think.
**A disclaimer: Any major takes on Aggie football stated before the first fall scrimmage are really just us sports writers throwing darts at a dartboard sunk eight feet deep in a swimming pool on a windy moonless night. Blindfolded.**
Observation 1: Today’s practice was fast
So fast it was noticeable. So fast it ended up being the quickest football practice in 120 years of Aggie football according to head coach Matt Wells. In fact, it was fast enough that the first words out of Wells’ mouth in the media interviews were “Fast. Uptempo. Lotta communication. There were some guys that were bigger, stronger, faster. We’ve got a lot of work to do. Well, just…we’re in shorts.”
First, that’s the best summary of any practice I’ve ever heard.
Second, Utah State remains dedicated to a no-huddle offense, and with Yost being a spread offense guy that could lead to some fun stuff this fall. Receivers are running more vertical routes (no more telegraphed sideline passes? Sounds good to me). Running backs are focused more on being shifty and making guys miss rather than ramming their way up the middle. Wells and Yost both refuted the idea of being a team that passes 70 times a game (no doubt referencing Mike Leach at Washington State) and supported the philosophy that the run game is key. Wells mentioned reconstructing the offensive line, but that’s a topic for a camp notes article sometime next week when the boys throw on pads.
Everything the Aggies want to do will be done through the lens of a no-huddle scheme that pushes the pace, simplifies play-calls and exhausts opposing defenses. With what I consider to be a solid receiving group and some tight ends who can block and catch and be huge (Hobbs), Utah State’s offense could steal close games this year if they get things clicking early.
Observation 2: How about that receiving group?
Since I just brought it up, now’s as good a time as any to designate the official hype train player of the year, Jaren Colston-Green. JCG is a senior wideout with all the tools to be a major contributor this fall. Spring ball, notorious for spawning numerous fan overreactions, appears not to be a fluke. JCG pulled down a back-shoulder fade just inside the end zone with a corner all over him early in practice, and then proceeded to snatch a 40-yard bomb between two defenders for a score in a light 11 vs 11 drill (“light” because remember…they’re still just in shorts). Yost says he looks like a new player, and JCG himself noted speeding up his game to match the pace at which USU wants to move the ball.
Braelon Roberts also showed some playmaking ability with a score of his own, following it up with a leaping chest-bump with Kent Myers. Chemistry and timing between Myers and the WR corps this early in camp is certainly a positive sign.
Observation 3: Quarterbacks
It’s good for coach Wells to encourage a mindset of everyone needing to earn their spot, but it’s hard to imagine anyone but Myers leading this team. Nothing I’ve seen in camp indicates this won’t be the case when week 1 rolls around.
Observation 4: Experience and depth matter
And Utah State’s secondary has both those things. Granted, with so many great running backs in the conference last year the numbers from 2016 can be a bit deceiving. But the fact remains, Dallin Leavitt and his supporting cast are ready to rock — and based purely on media day interviews, nobody is more ready for the season to start than senior CB Jalen Davis.
Twice in a row today in 7-on-7 drills, Myers was left with no option but to run after some smothering defense from the first string secondary. This is a secondary that can expect to cause any QB in the conference problems with proven playmakers on the backend, though monitoring progress in the front seven’s ability to generate pressure will be a priority as camp continues.
Absences, injuries and other bullet points:
— TE Damion Hobbs taking things easy with a tight hamstring
— WR Ron’Quavion Tarver not at camp today or tomorrow due to family obligation