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The Utah State Aggies have a lot of talent on their roster this season. Unfortunately, much of that key talent is in the training room, not on the field.
Two games into the season, the Aggies have added receivers Brandon Swindall and Shaan Johnson to the list of players expected to be out for the year. The others are linebackers Alex Huerta and Kyler Fackrell.
Johnson, a senior, has had lingering knee injuries that have forced him into retirement while Swindall was hurt in the opening minutes of the Aggies 40-20 win over Idaho State on Saturday.
Swindall was expected to be an integral part of the offense this year after earning five starts as a sophomore, finishing with 29 receptions for 285 yards and six touchdowns.
Johnson played in every game last year and finished with seven receptions for 72 yards.
"Two outside linebackers and a starting receiver out, it's tough," Utah State coach Matt Wells said Monday. "It's not good and it's hard and we have guys stepping up all over the place to find ways to win games."
Hunter Sharp, a JC transfer who had one catch for 37 yards against Tennessee, will step into a starting role in Swindall's absence.
"He is an electrifying kid," Wells said. "He didn't have many opportunities in this last game but he needs to step up and play some quality reps and we need to do a good job of putting him in position."
Utah State's offense struggled against Idaho State until it turned to the run game. It was a positive move, with the Aggies totaling 311 rushing yards on 45 carries against the Bengals with four players earning 40 yards or more.
Wells said the Aggies could be relying on the run game more in the future as well, particularly now that Swindall and Johnson are out.
"It may not be a one-man show back there," he said of the run game. "You're probably going to see Chuckie [Keeton] JoJo [Natson] and three or four running backs."
Saturday's game against Wake Forest could be an interesting test for such an attack. The Demon Deacons rank 47th nationally giving up just 120 yards rushing, but those stats came against UL-Monroe and Gardner-Webb.
Wake Forest lost to UL- Monroe 17-10 and beat Gardner-Webb 23-7.
However, the Deacons were strong against the run last year, even in a 4-8 season, ranking 34th nationally giving up just 143.2 yards on the ground.
"When you turn on the tape you see a big strong athletic defense," Wells said. "They've got big guys up front, two good inside linebackers and two good corners. All my buddies on the East Coast say they are legit and their rep is growing."
Wake Forest at Utah State
P Saturday, 5 p.m.
TV • CBS Sports Network