2008 Utah State Preview - Offense
Utah State C Ryan Tonnemacher
Utah State C Ryan Tonnemacher
Posted May 12, 2008

CollegeFootballNews.com 2008 Preview - Utah State Aggie Offense

Utah State Aggies

Preview 2008 - Offense

- 2008 CFN Utah State Preview | 2008 Utah State Offense
- 2008 Utah State Defense | 2008 Utah State Depth Chart
- 2007 Utah State Preview
| 2006 CFN Utah State Preview 

What you need to know:
The offense improved last season, but that's not saying much after doing nothing in 2006. Last year, the rushing attack was abysmal, the passing attack didn't generate any yards, and there was nothing to count on game in and game out. Offensive coordinator Darrell Dickey, the former North Texas head coach who led the way to four Sun Belt titles, knows how to get a running game going, and he needs the zone-blocking scheme to start generating some yards. The line is big but in need of time to get comfortable, especially in the interior, but all it'll have to do is open a little bit of a hole and the quick running backs will produce. There isn't a sure-thing No. 1 receiver, but the tight ends are good and WR Stanley Morrison is a rising star. The big question is at quarterback where Sean Setzer and Jase McCormick have to replace Leon Jackson and do more to get the offense moving. Basically, the offense needs playmakers, consistency and production.

Returning Leaders
Passing: Jase McCormick
25-40, 258 yds, 2 TD, 5 INT
Rushing: Derrvin Speight
129 carries, 504 yds, 3 TD
Receiving: Rob Myers
21 catches, 320 yds, 3 TD

Star of the offense: Senior TE Rob Myers
Player who has to step up and become a star: Senior QB Sean Setzer
Unsung star on the rise: Redshirt freshman WR Stanley Morrison
Best pro prospect: Hoke
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Myers, 2) C Ryan Tonnemacher, 3) OT Spencer Johnson
Strength of the offense: Quick running backs, tight end
Weakness of the offense:
Production, passing


Projected Starter
Former JUCO transfer Sean Setzer threw for 2,034 yards and 13 touchdowns for Garden City JC, but he wasn't able to see too much action completing his only pass in limited duty. The 6-2, 227-pounder was far more efficient in practices this off-season and showed the passing skills that made him such a good prospect. Despite being inconsistent and having issues with an arm injury, he's the team's best passing option. He's not a runner, but he's mobile enough to move around and buy himself some time. Even with his upside, the senior will have to fight to hold on to the job.

Projected Top Reserves: Junior Jase McCormick spent last season as the main backup behind Leon Jackson and is now neck-and-neck with Sean Setzer for the starting job. Not as big as Setzer, the 6-1, 190-pound McCormick is a far better runner with more experience after completing 25 of 40 passes for 258 yards and two touchdowns with five interceptions, to go along with 66 rushing yards, in his limited work.

Sophomore Diondre Borel is the smallest, but most athletic option of the three quarterbacks. The 6-0, 185-pounder is the No. 3 option, but he could add even more of a rushing element than Jase McCormick and isn't a bad passer. He saw a wee bit of mop-up work last year and didn't complete a pass.

Watch Out For ... the issue to never quite be settled. If Setzer is the number one, it's by the slimmest of margins. McCormick will see his share of action throughout the year.
Strength: Options. Setzer and McCormick are each decent enough to start and Borel has a wee bit of experience. The coaching staff can play around with the different options depending on the situation.
Weakness: Proven production. The Aggies were 116th in America in passing offense averaging just 153 yards per game. If Setzer or McCormick could've provided any sort of a spark, they would've seen more time.
Outlook: The offense is returning plenty of experience with several decent prospects waiting to shine, but who's going to run the attack? The passing game will likely be efficient, but hardly special, and the offense desperately needs someone to take the job by the horns. It'll likely be Setzer when all is said and done, but McCormick will see plenty of action.
Rating: 4.5

Running Backs

Projected Starters
Sophomore Curtis Marsh finished last year third on the team in rushing with 302 yards and two touchdowns, was fourth in receiving with 16 catches for 96 yards, and now he's primed and ready to do far more. While he's not a pounder at 5-11 and 194 pounds, he's one of the team's faster players with the ability to hit the home run if he gets a little room. He didn't do much breaking away last season, but he's too athletic with too much pop to not be more dangerous now that he knows what he's doing.

Trying to pave the way will once again be 226-pound sophomore Jacob Actkinson, one of the faster fullbacks in America. He might not be a blasting blocker, he was a high school track star who could be used in a variety of ways running for 86 yards and a touchdown last season and caught 12 passes for 167 yards with an 82-yard touchdown play against Louisiana Tech. Now he needs the ball in his hands more.

Projected Top Reserves: While Marsh might be listed as the starting tailback, it was sophomore Derrvin Speight who led the team with 504 rushing yards and three touchdowns, to go along with 13 catches for 57 yards. While not a big back at just 5-9 and 207 pounds, he's a speedster who proved he could carry the workload from time to time.

5-10, 210-pound redshirt freshman Robert Turbin is right on the heels of Marsh and Speight for the No. 1 job. A nice recruit for the program last year, Turbin has the quickness to cut through the hole on a dime. Even though he was banged up this spring and didn't have a chance to compete for the starter's role, he's a talent who'll get every shot this fall to make an impact.

Is Derrick Cumbee going to end up being the main man? The converted linebacker looked the part with a stunning blend of speed and power at the end of spring ball, and at the very least, showed he'll deserve a long look come fall. He made 13 tackles as a reserve linebacker last season, but the 6-1, 214-pound senior might end up taking over the workload at some point this year.

Watch Out For ... more of the workload going to the running backs. Former QB Leon Jackson led the team with 142 rushing attempts last season. There quarterbacks won't run as much meaning Marsh and Speight will have to do more.
Strength: Quickness. There might not be a thumper in the group unless Cumbee really does turn into a major factor, but there's a whole lot of quickness. As long as the main guys can figure out while hole to cut back through, they'll be effective.
Weakness: Scoring. The Aggies got 14 rushing touchdowns last year and six were from Leon Jackson and one was from tight end Jimmy Bohm. There isn't a workhorse to count on week in and week out, and there's definitely not anyone who can hammer out short yards around the goal line.
Outlook: The backfield is in better shame than it's been in years with a few good options and a few interesting but untested prospects waiting in the wings for a chance. The key will be to find a back who can get into a groove the fastest. With the offense's zone blocking scheme, it's all about finding the back who can find the right hole and make something happen. Speight, Marsh and Turbin should be able to all do that from time to time. Getting Actkinson more involved is a must.
Rating: 5


Projected Starters
Finding a number one target to replace Kevin Robinson is job one, and the Aggies might have found him in spring ball. Redshirt freshman Stanley Morrison is only 5-8 and 156 pounds, but he's a slippery playmaker who showed in practices that he could hit the home run and eventually become a big-play target. A good runner as well as a receiver in high school, he could see the ball in a variety of ways.

Senior Otis Nelson didn't take advantage of all the attention paid to Robinson last season making 20 catches for 189 yards and a touchdown. While the former defensive back was third on the team in receiving, and was steady throughout the year, he didn't do much to scare anyone. At 6-4 and 214 pounds, he's a big, tough target who needs to use his frame to be more physical.

Senior tight end Rob Myers has been a key receiver for the last few years, but staying healthy has been an issue. He struggled with a leg injury, among other issues, to only see time in nine games, but he was second on the team with 21 catches for 320 yards and three touchdowns while averaging 15.3 yards per catch. The former wide receiver bulked up well over the last few years and is a strong 6-4 and 240 pounds. He's not going to be a big blocker, but he'll stretch the field.

Projected Top Reserves: Adding more size behind the diminutive Stanley Morrison will be the 6-1, 203-pound Xavier Bowman after making seven catches for 34 yards and a touchdown. He's a speedster who has the wheels to get deep, but he averaged a mere 4.9 yards per catch. The junior has the athleticism to do a lot more.

Working behind Otis Nelson is 5-11, 176-pound redshirt freshman Austin Alder, a star high school defensive back and kick returner who the coaches hope can turn into a Kevin Robinson clone. That might be too much to ask for early on, but he's a good prospect who'll be in the rotation early on.

In the hunt for playing time will be Nnamdi Gwacham, but he has to get over a shoulder injury that cost him this spring. The junior 6-3, 203 pounds, and is one of the team's best athletes. Unfortunately, he hasn't turned into much on the field yet catching just one pass for five yards. At least he looks the part.

Rob Myers is the star receiving tight end, but JUCO transfer Jeremy Mitchell could end up being the team's best all-around option at the position. At 6-5 and 251 pounds, he's a big target with nice hands and great athleticism. Unlike Myers, an average blocker, Mitchell can hit.

Watch Out For ... Myers to be used far more. With Kevin Robinson gone, Myers, even though he's a tight end, might be the team's best deep threat. He'll be used like one.
Strength: The tight ends. With the addition of JUCO transfer Mitchell, the Aggies should come up with a strong formation when both are in the game considering both can catch and will occupy the attention of the linebackers.
Weakness: A number one receiver. Robinson caught 55 passes last year. The number two man, Myers caught 21 and the second best wide receiver, Nelson, caught just 20. Morrison might be the team's best receiving weapon, but he could be too small to take a full-season pounding if he's forced to catch 50 passes.
Outlook: The situation might be better than it appears on paper if Morrison can be the playmaker he was throughout spring ball. The tight ends are great and Nelson and Bowman have size, but they have to start producing. To be fair, the receiving corps hasn't exactly had Peyton Manning throwing the ball over the last few years, so everyone could start to shine with more production from the quarterbacks.
Rating: 4.5

Offensive Linemen

Projected Starters
Three starters return up front led by tackles Spencer Johnson and Derek Hoke, who each started every game last season, struggled a bit, but are expected to be better after a full season of experience.

Johnson, a 6-5, 292-pound sophomore on the left side, is a terrific athlete and has the best upside of anyone on the line. The former high school tennis player has done a great job of adding weight over the last few seasons and has finally filled out his frame. He's durable and athletic, but he has to be steadier in pass protection. That should come with a bit more time.

Hoke is a 6-9, 315-pound monster who say a little bit of time early in his career before taking over the fill-time job on the right side. Staying healthy was always an issue for the senior, but he was durable last season and showed good potential as a run blocker. He has the frame to be better in pass protection.

The third returning starter is 6-3, 292-pound senior center Ryan Tonnemacher, a reliable left guard who made the move to the middle last season and was a durable rock all season long. A knee injury limited him this off-season, but with is size and experience he's expected to be the anchor.

Replacing Shawn Murphy at left guard will be 6-3, 300-pound sophomore Ty Rogers
and taking over for Pace Jorgensen on the right side will be 6-1, 309-pound redshirt freshman Phillip Gapelu. While Rogers is more of a slowish tackle playing guard, Gapelu is a mauler who could work wonders for the running game. These two will be the keys to the offense; they have to shine to make the ground game go.

Projected Top Reserves: Junior Brannan McFadden is the team's most versatile lineman and an indispensable reserve. The 6-2, 305-pound senior will start out the year playing behind Ryan Tonnemacher at center, but he can play tackle and got a start last season at right guard. He's at his best if he can function like a big blocking tight end.

How quickly can Funaki Asisi become a top guard? The 6-2, 311-pound redshirt freshman was a high school defensive lineman who'll be better as a big blocker on the inside, and he could grow into a top player for the running game behind Ty Rogers at left guard.

Watch Out For ... McFadden to see time everywhere. He might not be the team's best blocker, and is a jack-of-all-trades, master of none, but he's good enough to possibly grow into the team's best backup option at all five spots.
Strength: Size. It's a big line with several very big bodies, especially among  the starters. There's no reason to not be able to pound out more for the running game with the girth across the front wall.
Weakness: Production. Last year the line was supposed to grow into a possible strength with two emerging tackles and two big, veteran guards with all-star potential. It didn't happen. Now the line has to rely on the tackles where were still growing into their jobs, a banged up center, and two new guards.
Outlook: It's a young line, for the most part, with several inexperienced backups about to see plenty of time in the rotation as the coaching staff searches for just the right combination. The tackles are set, but Johnson and Hoke have to be consistent rocks; they weren't last year. Tonnemacher is a good center, but he has to get past a knee injury. The line can't be too much worse than it was last year, but there's not a lot of time to jell. The skill players aren't good enough to produce if the line isn't at least average.
Rating: 4.5