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USU football: Aggies have plenty of depth at receiver

Published August 6, 2014 11:33 pm

Returning starters Natson, Swindall among several options for Chuckie Keeton.
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Logan • Utah State's receivers have made their share of bad news in the offseason with Ronald Butler and JoJo Natson running afoul of the law. Now with camp underway, the Aggies' receivers hope to bring some positive attention to their position.

By the looks of things, doing so shouldn't be too hard, with the receiving corp. being one of the deepest areas on the Aggies' depth chart.

The Aggies return two starters in Brandon Swindall and Natson while Braelon Roberts and Shaan Johnson are expected to contribute immediately.

Coach Matt Wells doesn't believe there is much of a dropoff either, with the coach liking what he sees in Tyler Weese, Hayden Weichers and true freshman Damoun Patterson.

"We have some length and we have some guys that can make some guys miss in a phone booth," he said. "We have some young freshmen that I like coming out of spring ball. I'm excited to watch those guys. There are other young kids who have had the summer to grow up and progress. We'll talk about them after some practices when they show up a little bit."

Perhaps that self-imposed censorship is why he didn't say much about junior Hunter Sharp, a transfer from Antelope Valley JC, following Tuesday's practice. Sharp caught four passes during an 11-on-11 drill, including a 30-yard touchdown from Darell Garretson.

Wells said he was excited to see how Sharp develops over the next few weeks, but Sharp isn't the only guy the Aggies expect to make big gains in camp. With reliable receivers in Travis Reynolds and Travis Van Leeuwen gone, it's time for others to step up, said redshirt freshman Braelon Roberts.

They've worked hard in the summer as a group, he said, and he believes the unit has improved since spring.

"We've all gotten a little stronger," Roberts said. "One thing I needed to work on was my hands and I spent a lot of time doing that this summer. All of our hands are a lot better."

Of course, having a guy like Keeton back on the field helps too, Roberts said.

"Coming back from an injury isn't easy, but he got better," Roberts said of Keeton. "His release is quicker and his accuracy is much improved. We're going to be great this season."

Natson has also had some good moments on the field this week, perhaps in an effort to make up for his off-field issues. Natson is supposed to report to the Cache County jail Friday for two days as part of his sentence for pleading guilty to theft.

While neither he nor Butler, who was charged with a DUI, are being made available to the media, the two are apparently facing in-house disciplinary actions that have seemed to satisfy both Wells and their teammates.

Wells said the two are available to play immediately, while Roberts said the team is supporting them.

"We all make mistakes and they know the consequences," Roberts said. "But they're both great men and still our family." —

Camp roundup

O Who was hot • Sophomore corner Devin Centers intercepted two passes, returning both for touchdowns, to lead a solid defensive effort.

Who to track • Freshmen backs LaJuan Hunt and Justen Hervey both had good days, showing the depth at the position behind veteran Joe Hill.

What is next • The Aggies get to add shoulder pads Thursday as they work through the NCAA's five-day "acclimatization period." —

Receiver review

O Who to replace • Travis Reynolds and Travis Van Leeuwen, who played in 41 and 50 games, respectively.

Who is back • JoJo Natson and Brandon Swindall are returning starters. Natson led the Aggies with 59 receptions for 395 yards and two touchdowns last year and Swindall had 29 receptions for 285 yards and six touchdowns.






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