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2009 Utah State Preview - Offense
Utah State RB Robert Turbin & QB Diondre Borel
CollegeFootballNews.com 2009 Preview - Utah State Aggie Offense
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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.
Star of the offense:
Junior QB Diondre Borel
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
Player who has to step up and become a star: Junior OT
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
Weakness of the offense:
Pass protection, Backup
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,
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
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.