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Utah State mailbag — Garretson will start, preparing for the Lobos, plus more

Published October 14, 2013 5:29 pm
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Logan • Utah State's first back-to-back losses since 2011 didn't seem to sit well with fans, several of whom were tweeting "Season Over" at me in the waining minutes of the loss to Boise State.

Not sure I get that one.

The fact of the matter is the season isn't over - in fact, Utah State doesn't get a break until after this week at New Mexico. Defeats to BYU and Boise State certainly raise some questions, some of which you guys have submitted to me this week. Here we go:

Do you see Wells calling a qb starter early to get them more comfortable with the offense? 2 qbs sure hurt USC's O early this yr ... - @Schamp12

This question is now slightly outdated, but I offer it up as a chance to riff on the QB situation for a second: Yes, Matt Wells named Darell Garretson the starter this week. It was actually on the game notes depth chart before Wells announced it this morning.

Breaking down the call to start Craig Harrison last week, it seems to boil down to the thought that Garretson wasn't ready. Wells mentioned again this Monday how few reps the freshman has had since the season began - maybe half of the first-team reps weren't enough to get him up to speed for Boise State. It was obvious that he started out shaky against the Broncos, with two picks on his early possessions.

That being said, Wells said Monday he likes how Garretson has processed the game mentally. When Wells asked him on the sideline what mistakes he had made, he was able to tell him. The belief among the coaching staff seems to be with first-team reps, Garretson will mature quickly.

Wells on Garretson: "I thought he kept his composure well, he acted good on the sidelines. When you ask a young quarterback 'What did you see?' after you just saw it, whether from a pressure or secondary situation and he tells you exactly how you saw it, he's dialed in. It gives you good confirmation that he is."

I asked Wells about Harrison's response to being back-up again, and Wells said he though his junior quarterback had responded positively and understood the situation.

My take on it is Garretson is conceivably the quarterback of the future, and with a weaker Mountain West opponent and a bye week ahead, Wells and company will work to develop him into a viable starter for now and down the road. I didn't think Harrison was awful by comparison, honestly, and maybe even did some things better. But Garretson probably has the greater upside at this point - that is, if Utah State can tap into it.

What will be the biggest areas of emphasis in practice on each side of the ball this week? - @USUGeoAg

On defense, no question it will be to stop the run. The Aggies are still the best rushing defense in the conference, but they'll have to be atop their game to stop Kasey Carrier and an offensive line that has three guys who weigh 300 pounds or more.

New Mexico may not be the fiercest conference opponent the Aggies will face, but they sure can run the ball: They nearly came back down big to Wyoming last week with only 179 passing yards. Carrier is the main threat, but quarterback Cole Gautsche can also hoof it, as he has 516 yards rushing this year. Considering some of Utah State's first-half problems against Air Force's play action, it will be intriguing to see if the Aggies are tighter in the secondary this week against a run-dominant team.

On offense, I think it's equally clear that Utah State needs to get Darell Garretson settled at quarterback. There's things the Aggies can improve also, as Travis Reynolds pointed out there were some alignment issues Saturday, and the run game could improve in consistency against a pretty weak Lobos run D. But there seem to be few goals as critical as getting a starting quarterback ready for the game ahead. Especially with a true freshman, expect the Aggies to build his confidence this week.

I worry about the lack of energy on the field and sideline. Romney stadium felt dead Saturday. Where will the energy come from? — @CamTurnbow

Winning. Pure and simple. Utah State needs to win, and it needs to get bowl eligible.

I think a lot of the low energy comes from the fan base right now. Utah State has yet to prove it can win a game without Chuckie Keeton. If you're an Aggies fan and you packed the stadium and wore white Saturday night, where was the payoff? That's a pretty fair question.

The energy for the rest of the season has to come from the Aggies themselves. There's still a lot of seniors on the team, there's still a lot of experience. Utah State must find ways to leverage that into wins, and then the fans will be a little more into again. I think there are plenty of fans who are still into the season now - sorry if you feel like I'm selling you short - but to really bring life back to Romney, the Aggies have to turn this ship around.

Any plans to play Jefferson Court more or to throw to the TE's more than last week against byu/BSU? - @IdaAg93

When asked about D.J. Tialavea's injury, Wells said it makes the staff "more mindful of what we're doing with the tight ends." Frankly, I'm not sure what that means.

But look at the tight ends on the roster: Keegan Andersen, Jefferson Court, Derek Keller and Wyatt Houston are all significantly smaller than Tialavea. My belief is that where Tialavea will be missed is in the blocking game. Having him on the edge was like having an extra tackle on the line. He was a gritty blocker, and without him, Boise State was able to get four sacks.

It's not a direct cause-and-effect scenario, but it's something Utah State will miss. It looked like they experimented a bit with a heavy look, bringing in tackle Logan Molohigo'ou on certain sets to help bolster their blocking schemes. It should be interesting to see if they do that again this year, especially facing a pretty weak run defense this week.

I wouldn't be surprised if Andersen got a bigger passing role in the new-look offense. He might be more of an escape valve for Garretson if the freshman can't find his first option. Andersen has ramped up his receiving game this year overall, although he surprisingly didn't have a catch against Boise State. I haven't seen enough from Court or Keller since camp to be sure how their roles might be affected. The other option for Utah State might be to simply have more three- and four-receiver sets to spread out the defense and take some heat off Garretson - at this point, Brandon Swindall and Jojo Natson might be better answers than going down the depth chart at tight end.

Also, tap me on the shoulder if I'm really going off the deep end, but I'm willing to wonder if Houston doesn't get a look toward the end of the year. He's on track to redshirt right now, but he looked promising in fall camp with sticky hands, and he seemed to have a good repore with Garretson. I wouldn't go as far to say it is likely, but I wouldn't put it past a coaching staff that is looking for any way to win right now.

That's it for the mailbag this week. Keep sending in your questions via e-mail and Twitter, and stay tuned for more Aggies coverage this week.

— Kyle Goonkgoon@sltrib.comTwitter: @kylegoon






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