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2009 Utah State Preview - Offense
Utah State RB Robert Turbin & QB Diondre Borel
Utah State RB Robert Turbin & QB Diondre Borel
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Jun 12, 2009


CollegeFootballNews.com 2009 Preview - Utah State Aggie Offense

Utah State Aggies

Preview 2009 - Offense

- 2009 CFN Utah State Preview | 2009 Utah State Offense
- 2009 Utah State Defense | 2009 Utah State Depth Chart
- 2008 Utah St Preview | 2007 Utah St Preview
| 2006 CFN Utah St Preview 

What you need to know:
New offensive coordinator Dave Baldwin's spread appears to be ready to shine right away. The key will be the play of QB Diondre Borel, the team's leading rusher last season and an accurate passer with the right make-up of smarts and athleticism to handle the new attack. Ten starters return overall with a veteran line, a deep, quick stable of backs, and an emerging receiving corps that will allow Borel to spread the ball around. While this won't always be the most explosive attack, it should be a bit more consistent as the line starts to jell. The pass protection needs to be better, but the line won't have to do much more for the running game than open up a bit of a hole and let the backs fly through.

Returning Leaders
Passing: Diondre Borel
136-242, 1,705 yds, 11 TD, 10 INT
Rushing: Diondre Borel
179 carries, 632 yds, 5 TD
Receiving: Stanley Morrison
26 catches, 291 yards, 1 TD

Star of the offense:
Junior QB Diondre Borel
Player who has to step up and become a star: Junior OT Spencer Johnson
Unsung star on the rise: Senior WR Omar Sawyer
Best pro prospect: Junior C Brennan McFadden
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Borel, 2) McFadden, 3) RB Robert Turbin
Strength of the offense: Quick running backs, Veteran line
Weakness of the offense:
Pass protection, Backup quarterback

Quarterbacks

Projected Starter
:
Junior Diondre Borel didn't exactly come from out of nowhere, but he was considered the No. 3 option going into last season and he turned out to be the team's best playmaker. Not only did he throw for 1,705 yards with 11 touchdowns and ten interceptions, but he led the team in rushing with 632 yards and five scores. Not all that big at just 6-0 and 174 pounds, he has to make plays on the move and he has to use his quickness to try to avoid taking big shots. The new offense should suit him perfectly and there will be a few times when he takes over games with his legs. Now he has to be more consistent throwing the ball and make better, quicker reads.

Projected Top Reserves: The team desperately needed a veteran backup to count on in a pinch and it got one in JUCO transfer Jeffrey Fischer. The 6-0, 195-pound junior completed 64% of his throws for 2,063 yards and 23 touchdowns with four interceptions for Cerritos College in California last year, and while he's not necessarily a runner by design, he can carry the ball when needed.

Looking to make a push for the No. 2 job will be redshirt freshman Exavier Johnson, a compact 6-1, 210-pounder who runs well and has a live arm. A good enough athlete to be used somewhere else if he doesn't play quarterback, he might end up making an ideal safety if he doesn't become a part of the passing mix.

Watch Out For ... the  freshmen. Borel is the franchise for the next two seasons, but there will be plenty of jockeying for position between true freshman Adam Eastman and Johnson for the future starting job. They might not see the light of day until 2011, but the opportunities will be there to become the No. 2 man.
Strength: The offense. The Utah State spread attack should fit Borel perfectly. He has the smarts and the rushing skills to be able to make things happen, but now he has to improve his passing skills and his consistency.
Weakness: Proven backups. Borel is tough, but he's not all that big. Fischer still needs to prove he can handle himself at the higher level, and beyond him it's a roll of the dice.
Outlook: Borel took the offense and made it his last year, and while he was a one-man gang at times, he came out looking like a player to build around for the next few years. While he's a good one, the backup situation could be the key with five options looking to impress.
Rating: 5


Running Backs


Projected Starters
:
The running game needs more out of the backs, and it needs more out of Robert Turbin. The 5-10, 202-pound sophomore started six times finishing second on the team with 485 yards and eight touchdowns highlighted by a 123-yard day against Idaho. He has the quickness to cut through the hole with a speed burst to make big things happen in the new offense. Now he needs the ball in his hands more after getting double-digit carries in just three games. When he got the ball, he produced as a runner and also a receiver catching 20 passes for 256 yards and two scores.

Projected Top Reserves: Ready to make an immediate impact is Michael Smith, a 5-9, 187-pound JUCO transfer from Eastern Arizona JC where he ran for 1,002 yards and 11 touchdowns last year. Extremely quick with home-run hitting ability, he'll used as a kickoff returner as well as a runner.

Junior Derrvin Speight led the team two years ago with 504 rushing yards and three scores, but he missed all of last year hurt. Not a huge back at just 5-9 and 193 pounds, he's a slippery runner with excellent speed. He should work well in the new offense; he's not going to have to pound the ball.

6-0, 192-pound sophomore Marquis Butler was used a little bit last year as a part-time runner and a kickoff returner finishing with 171 yards and two scores highlighted by a 55-yard, one-score day in the loss to Nevada. He's a sprinter who could make things happen in the open field if he gets a crease.

Watch Out For ... Smith. The JUCO transfer will quickly become the team's most dangerous runner once he gets on the field in games. If Turbin is the main runner, Smith will be used in a variety of ways to get the ball in his hands.
Strength: Quickness. There might not be a thumper in the group, but all the backs can move and they can all get through a hole in a hurry. Get them a little bit of room and they can make things happen.
Weakness: A workhorse, No. 1 back. Turbin would be good with more work, and he'll get it, but he has to prove he can hold up for a full season with a full-time workload. Will he be the man who gets the ball in the clutch, or will the running game continue to revolve around QB Diondre Borel for the key yards?
Outlook: There's a good group of running backs to work with led by the expected emergence of Turbin into a larger role and Smith as a key part of the rotation. Throw in the return of Speight and the speed of Butler and this isn't a bad group to start using on a more regular basis.
Rating: 5


Receivers

Projected Starters
:
Message received. The new coaching staff wanted more out of senior Omar Sawyer and started him off as a third stringer before spring ball began. Sawyer responded by blowing up throughout the offseason finishing up with three catches for 196 yards and two scores in the spring game. While he's not huge at 5-9 and 174 pounds, he can move. Now he has to be a regular home run hitter after making 19 catches for 246 yards and no scores.

5-9, 151-pound sophomore Stanley Morrison is a wisp of a players with tremendous quickness and too much speed for most WAC corners. A good runner as well as a receiver in high school, he'll get the ball in a variety of ways this year after finishing second on the team with 26 catches for 291 yards and a score. He also ran five times for 17 yards.

Taking over Otis Nelson's old starting spot will be Eric Moats, a 6-0, 173-pound junior transfer from Air Force. A good route runner with the potential to be a decent midrange target, he doesn't make mistakes, is a nice athlete, and makes plays that come his way. Now he has to prove he can do it in game action.

Senior Jeremy Mitchell will be the full-time starting tight end after seeing spot duty last year. At 6-5 and 243 pounds he has good size and decent hands, but he only made six catches for 66 yards and a score. The former JUCO transfer is a hitter who has been good for the ground game, and now he'll try to be more of a regular receiver.


Projected Top Reserves: Senior Nnamdi Gwacham got over a shoulder injury to finish third on the team with 20 catches for 370 yards and two touchdowns averaging 18.5 yards per catch. Surprisingly steady, he had one big highlight, a 62-yard touchdown catch against Hawaii, and was decent throughout the year. At 6-3 and 205 pounds he brings much needed speed to the mix.

6-3, 195-pound senior Xavier Bowman has good speed to go along with his size, but he hasn't shown it off enough catching nine passes for 101 yards and two touchdowns last season. He has the tools to do far more and be a bigger part of the offense, but he has to first beat out Moats for a spot.

Sophomore Austin Alder was a star high school defensive back and kick returner who was supposed to be a big part of the equation last year but only made two catches for 34 yards. The 5-11, 178-pounder is tremendously quick, but still raw working behind Morrison in what could potentially be a do-it-all role.

At 6-7 and 247 pounds, sophomore tight end Tarren Lloyd is a matchup nightmare who caught nine passes for 122 yards with a five-yard touchdown against BYU. With his height and great leaping ability, he should be used more on jump balls around the goal line and on short-yardage plays. He's also physical when he has to be.

Watch Out For ... Sawyer to be a breakout star. The coaching staff specifically targeted him when it first took over and wanted to make him the deep-threat star of the passing game. So far, so good coming out of spring ball.
Strength: Experience. No. 1 target Otis Nelson is gone, but four of the top five receivers are back and they can all move. Now that they know what they're doing with Diondre Borel at the helm, they should be far more productive.
Weakness: A sure-thing star. Utah State did a nice job of spreading the ball around, but there isn't one guy to count on in the clutch. Sawyer is becoming that type of player, but he isn't quite at the point where defenses are going to be freaking out each week to prepare for him.
Outlook: There might not be any world-beaters, but this is a nice, veteran group with excellent quickness and the potential to do big things as Borel keeps on improving. There will likely be a different top player each week with the opportunity to be there for someone to step up and shine.
Rating: 5.5

Offensive Linemen

Projected Starters
:
The star of the veteran line will once again be junior Brennan McFadden, a 6-2, 305-pound center who spent most of last year at right guard before moving over to the middle. Very athletic and extremely versatile, he can play anywhere on the line and he'll be the anchor that everything works around. He doesn't make too many mistakes.

Junior Spencer Johnson will be back at left tackle after starting the first six games. He struggled with his consistency and he wasn't always great in pass protection, but he's a terrific athlete who spent part of his high school career as a tennis player before bulking up into a 6-5, 285-pound blocker. He'll get the first look on the outside, but he has to be better.

The one open spot up front is at right tackle where Tariq Polley will step in for Derek Hoke. Polley started twice late last year and is hardly coming in cold. At 6-4 and 315 pounds he has great size and is good for the ground game, but he isn't all that quick against speed rushers.

6-3, 295-pound sophomore Funaki Asisi started the final five games at left guard and will get the first look to take over the job full-time. He was a star high school defensive lineman who made the move over to the offensive side when he joined the Aggies, and while he's not quite a finished product, he's very strong and should be good for the ground game.

Sophomore Philip Gapelu is back at right guard after taking over late last year. He's hardly a finesse blocker, he's a mauler who pounds away for the running game. The 6-2, 306-pounder should be a fixture up front for the next three years.


Projected Top Reserves: Junior Ty Rogers saw time in ten games last season with six starts at left guard. He was fine, but he wasn't fantastic having problems with his run blocking. At 6-4 and 279 pounds, he's more like a slow tackle playing guard, he'll move outside to a more natural right tackle position behind Polley.

Sophomore Tanner Richins didn't see any work last year, but he was good enough this spring to move over from right tackle to left tackle to work behind Johnson. At 6-6 and 308 pounds he's one of the team's biggest backups and he's a good enough athlete to be developed with meaningful playing time.

Watch Out For ... a lot of shuffling. The line underwent a midseason wholesale change to try to shake things up late last year, and the move might have paid off big going into this year with several veteran players waiting to come through with more responsibility.
Strength: Veterans. Four starters are back and that doesn't count Polley, who got the call in two games last year. This is a big, veteran group that should be far better with a little more time. There isn't a senior in the bunch, so this will be a nasty, jelled line going into 2010.
Weakness: Production. The pass protection has been non-existent over the last few years, and while the running game was better partly because the big line blasted away, there has to be more done to keep Diondre Borel clean.
Outlook: Last year's line was young and in need of work and seasoning. This year's line is experience and in need of work and seasoning. It's a big, veteran group that should do enough for the spread to get the running game working, but the pass protection has to be better and the depth needs developing.
Rating: 5