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Utah State football notes: QB Kent Myers finding comfort zone in Aggies' new offense

Published March 25, 2017 12:52 pm

USU football notes • Senior ran a similar scheme in high school.
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Three weeks down and just two to go in the spring season for the Aggies. For returning players, the spring will serve to temper the shock of considerable offseason changes. New members of the coaching staff, a new offensive scheme and many new faces filling in positions manned last season by seniors.

The most intriguing changes have been on offense, where Utah State has increased the tempo and brought in new offensive coordinator David Yost, who will also coach the quarterbacks, to run his version of the spread offense.

The new-look offense more than held its own, particularly the first unit led by senior quarterback Kent Myers, during Friday afternoon's practice on Merlin Olsen Field in Maverik Stadium. That included a couple of long completions in the passing game, and an ability to punch it into the end zone after getting into the red zone (inside the opponent's 20-yard line). The offense struggled early in the week in the red zone.

"Today, we made more progress on offense," Aggies coach Matt Wells said. "It was good to see some of the stuff moving and a lot more efficient in terms of the passing game and the pace and the tempo. I thought the offense took a really good step forward in terms of that. That was our focus today."

While there are still a lot of roles to be determined on offense, from receiver to running back to the offensive line, the majority of which will likely shake out in preseason camp, Myers seems fairly entrenched at quarterback. He started all 12 games last season.

Like everyone else, Myers had to acclimate himself to the new offensive coordinator and some new terminology. However, he's looking at the change as though he were switching from a new glove back to an old, already broken in baseball mitt he's has for years. Myers sees a lot of similarities to the offense he ran as a high school quarterback in Texas, and that's made him more comfortable.

"One of my high school coaches got it from where Coach Yost was at," Myers said. "I just think I have more freedom. I have more ability to change plays and just do what I want to do. … There's stuff that the coach can't see that I can see one the field, so it's my [job] to get us in a good position to score. I think that's what's helping us out. With the experience that I have right now, I'm able to do that."

During the full-speed offense vs. defense segments of practice, the offense has shown several of the usual staples of the spread offense like the zone read run plays, the quick-hitting wide receiver bubble screens, hitches, and speed outs, but has also taken shots on deep throws.

Every day in practice the offense set goals of executing various numbers of "explosive plays." The Aggies averaged 162.9 passing yards per game last season, and Myers has said repeatedly that he's excited about the opportunity to throw deep downfield with receivers such as Rayshad Lewis (40 catches, 469 yards last season) and Ron'quavion Tarver (46 catches, 602 yards) having gained a year of experience.

"I think it's more of a focus," Myers said of creating big plays. "I think we're coming out here with a lot more juice. Everybody is enjoying this offense. Everybody is getting the ball. We're sharing the ball around, and, I think, everybody likes that. I think everybody is coming to practice ready to play."

Give me that

Last season, the Aggies forced just 10 turnovers in 12 games. Among Mountain West teams, only Fresno State and Boise State forced fewer turnovers (nine each) than the Aggies. The Aggies ranked ninth out of 12 teams in the conference in turnover margin (-0.42).

Whether that means a cornerback wrestling a ball out of the hands of the intended receiver in the end zone, stripping a ballcarrier as he fought for more yardage or redshirt freshman safety Braxton Gunther stepping in front of a pass over the middle and intercepting redshirt freshman quarterback Jordan Love's pass — the Aggies defense did all three on Friday — the Aggies want to establish a ball-hawking mentality on defense.

"We talked all day yesterday and all day this morning in our meetings, and this afternoon, about forcing turnovers," Wells said. "You saw some of that late [in practice]. You saw some turnovers, three or four right there. I think we've got to win the turnover margin. [It's] one of our items on the plan to win. It's a big thing. A big emphasis for us defensively is forcing turnovers.

Hobbs transition continues

Senior Damion Hobbs' conversion from quarterback to receiver, which started right after the Aggies returned from spring break, has gone forward full-speed ahead. During live team periods of practice, he has lined up in a traditional tight end spot as well as split out wide or in the slot. He's even caught passes from Myers, whom he once competed with for the quarterback job.

The 6-foot-1, 225-pound product of Cedar Hill, Texas, is far from diminutive figure, and that figures to work in his favor during this transition.

"I've said this once before — I think quarterbacks have the best hands on the team because we're catching the ball every snap," Myers said. "I think he's doing really good. With his big body he's able to box some people out, and he's athletic. It's kind of different, but you've got to do what you've got to do."

lworthy@sltrib.com Twitter: @LWorthySports






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