Striving For Respectability

**Republished from 8/11/06** Former Boise State assistant coach Brent Guy experienced baptism under fire last year in his first season as Head Coach of Utah State. With a tough schedule this year, it may be another long season in Logan.

Utah State returns 11 starters this fall for Coach Brent Guy. Guy guided the Aggies to a 3-8 mark last year, with wins over UNLV, San Jose State and New Mexico State in USU's inaugural year in the Western Athletic Conference.

Leon Jackson III (6-1, 196, Jr.) returns at quarterback for the Aggies having missed three games in '05 due to a hurt shoulder. He completed 57.6% of his passes for 1,547 yards and eight touchdowns. What makes Jackson so dangerous is his ability to escape tacklers for big gains upfield. He ran for 328 yards last year, a Utah State record for quarterbacks.

The running game is a definite concern, ranking 92nd in the country last year. Marcus Cross (5-11, 207, So.) is a junior college transfer brought in to remedy that situation. Ryan Bohm (5-11, 207, So.), a hometown product, ran for 340 yards as a true freshman while Lynwood Johnson (6-1, 228, So.) returns at fullback this fall for the Aggies.

Tony Pennyman (5-9, 164) was one of the Western Athletic Conference's top receivers last year and he returns for his senior campaign. Kevin Robinson (6-0, 185, Jr.) caught 43 balls for 661 yards and eight touchdowns in '05 and he returns as well. Nnamdi Gwacham (6-3, 204) has the height and athleticism to play as a freshman, giving Jackson plenty of options in the Aggie passing game. Tight end Rob Myers (6-4, 236, So.) had an impressive spring and has won that job.

The offensive line, however, lost three starters to graduation and five who were left suffered injuries in the spring. That didn't allow for much quality work in the limited number of practices that the NCAA allows. Left tackle Ryan Tonnemacher (6-3, 270, So.) and guards Pace Jorgensen (6-5, 318, Jr.) and Ryan Pahua (6-3, 315, Sr.) are expected to win jobs provided they are healthy. Senior Justin Schlimgen (6-2, 299) and sophomore Derek Hoke (6-9, 300) will fight it out for the other tackle spot, with Malik Cin (6-4, 305, Sr.) the favorite to play center.

On the defensive line, Brian Soi (6-3, 298, So.) and E.J. Reid (6-1, 297, Jr.) hope to fill the void left by John Chick who is now in the National Football League. Chick ranked fifth in the nation last year with 12.5 sacks. Ben Calderwood (6-2, 252, So.) and Frank Maile (6-1, 261, Jr.) will play on the ends.

Jake Hutton (6-0, 220, So.) became the first freshman to ever lead the team in tackles with 87. He's moving to the middle this fall for Coach Guy. Devon Hall (6-3, 209, So.), who contributed 44 tackles for Utah State, and Daryl Fields (5-7, 190, So.) team with Hutton at linebacker.

Free safety Terrance Washington (5-11, 157, Sr.) and strong safety Antonio Taylor (6-1, 205, Jr.) teamed for 60 and 65 tackles, respectively. Josh Taylor (6-0, 173, So.) and Marquise Charles (5-8, 169, So.) will be the corners.

Justin Hamblin handles both placekicking and punting for the Aggies. Pennyman is a star at kickoff returns, ranking 5th in the nation last year with a 29.4 average and two touchdowns. Robinson also had a sterling 10.0 average in punt returns last year, taking one all the way for a score.

Utah State has non-conference games at Wyoming, Arkansas and BYU, with a September home date against Utah. In the WAC, they host Idaho, Fresno State, Hawai'i and New Mexico State while visiting San Jose State, Louisiana Tech, Nevada and Boise State.

In EA Sports simulations, Aggie fans won't be glad to hear that Utah State is projected to lose every game. Strong opportunities exist against Idaho, San Jose State, New Mexico State and Wyoming. The development of the running game will be key to improving upon last year's 3-8 record. The lack of work this spring for the beat-up offensive line makes that critical unit questionable. Any time a team loses 11 starters, it doesn't set them up for much continuity. Guy is the right coach for Utah State to help develop the program and bring the young Aggies along. Logan fans need to be patient as the team builds for next year.

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