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Utah State football storylines from first scrimmage

Published March 28, 2013 8:44 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This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated.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 • A few extra notes from Utah State's first football scrimmage on Thursday:

Offensive depth should be a concern • Matt Wells has mentioned it before, but that point was reinforced by how hard it was for the second- and third-string teams to move the ball. Jeff Manning struggled the most of any quarterback, going 1-for-10 with all three picks. But the issues are attributable to a number of factors: The offensive line isn't blocking as well further down the depth chart, and there were a number of outright drops by receivers. The deepest position might be running back, as Abou Toure and Paul Clark had flashes, but there were also some loose balls on plays that Wells was very concerned about afterward.

"You've got to have running backs that hang on to the football," he said. "If you're going to lay it on the carpet, you'll watch the game right next to me on Saturday. You will not play in this program putting the ball on the ground."

It's worth noting that the influx of talent this summer will likely spice up the position battles on the offensive side of the ball, so spring is not the end-all, be-all if back-ups don't really stand out.

Defensive depth looks pretty good • In the inverse way, the defense clearly has some playmakers not just in its first team, but to spare. Aggie fans know about Jake Doughty, Zach Vigil, Jordan Nielsen, and Kyler Fackrell. The all-WAC honorees were playing up to that level, especially in the two-minute drills by forcing pressure and getting in the backfield.

But how about Travis Parrish, who had a pick and tackle for a loss? Or Bridger Peck, who had a sack and pass breakup? Dee Hamala took advantage for a pick and a pass breakup, while Ricky Ali'ifua, fresh off a mission, looked solid up front. At least compared to their offensive counterparts, the defense looked more developed down the depth chart.

Go-to receiver is yet to be established • So Jojo Natson had a great day with six catches, and so did Brandon Swindall with four and a score. But part of the red zone issue - the first team had only one touchdown in three appearances there, including one only seven yards out - is there's no "go-to-guy." Travis Reynolds was taken away at times by Nevin Lawson, and no one else has quite made a bulletproof case that he is the move-the-chains or hit-in-the-endzone guy. Chuckie Keeton, who had a solid day, said the receivers did well overall, but spoke to that point.

"Last year it was Matt Austin and this year we definitely have to find who it is," he said. "We have some good candidates but nobody has really defined themselves completely."

There's some solid reviews already for Todd Orlando • That guy jumping up and down on the sideline? That's the new defensive coordinator, and he's already made a big impression.

"I have never seen anyone with as much energy as coach Orlando," Connor Williams said. "We'll be in the film room and he'll be 30 yards behind the line of scrimmage and you'll see him buzzing at the ball carrier trying to strip the ball."

But more than just raw passion, which he clearly has in spades, Orlando has brought a strong hand to the schematics of the defense. Wells was complementary of Orlando's "low maintenance" approach to taking in and adding to the playbook. He's also probably benefitting from defensive assistants who have experience with the personnel he's using. Whatever is going on with that side of the ball, Keeton acknowledged he had a tough time reading what might happen after the snap.

"They've gotten a lot better at disguising their coverage and blitzes," he said. "Even though I am checking at the line of scrimmage, trying to decipher who our offensive line is picking up, they are still doing a good job of bringing multiple guys and adjusting on the fly."

— Kyle Goonkgoon@sltrib.comTwitter: @kylegoon




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