College football • USU linebacker's redshirt year was tough, but has paid off.
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Logan • As it turns out, Kyler Fackrell made the right decision. He just didn't like it at the time.
Utah State coaches gave him a choice last season: redshirt and become a four-year starter, or play as a true freshman and receive 10 snaps per game. Choosing the former ranks as the hardest athletic decision he's had to make.
Fackrell, an outside linebacker, reflected on it this week in practice. He's the reigning Western Athletic Conference defensive player of the week, and a critical component to the Aggies' scheme heading into Saturday's showdown at San Jose State.
But the competitor in Fackrell didn't want to sit. Not even for a play.
"It was tough not playing last year because you always want to be on the field," Fackrell said. "But I eventually knew it was going to be for my benefit. I was able to do some things with the time. I know the defense way better than I did last season, and I'm bigger and stronger than I was."
Utah State coach Gary Andersen often redshirts players he thinks will turn out to be special. Recruited out of Arizona, Fackrell fit the mold on potential, and he's now turning that potential into production.
He intercepted a Taysom Hill pass against BYU last week, allowing USU to drive for the game-tying field goal try, which missed wide left. He notched 10 tackles against the Cougars, and generally caused the BYU offense issues with his ability to roam the field and make plays.
"He's a tremendous talent, that's the bottom line," Andersen said. "He had an opportunity to make a bunch of plays against BYU and all season for that matter, and he's taken advantage of them. I thought he was physical in his tackling and he made plays on the other side of the line of scrimmage. He can go a long way in this game."
Fackrell, 6-foot-5 and 230 pounds, has the added advantage of real speed at the outside linebacker spot, which is what made coaches want to redshirt him in the first place. His presence has pushed Tavaris McMillian, last year's starter, to the inside. And he, along with Bojay Filimoeatu, has given the defense a real dynamic edge.
The pass rush is better with Fackrell than it's been in the previous three seasons. He ranks among the team leaders in quarterback hurries and tackles. All of this comes as a redshirt freshman. All of this comes after he saw the wisdom in taking time to learn the position and the defense.
Now, it's paying off for all parties involved.
Kyler Fackrell file
• Averages six tackles per game
• Is the reigning WAC Player of the Week
• His career high is 11 tackles, which came against Utah
Utah State at San Jose State