Scouting Report: Utah State Offense

BYU looks to take its No. 7 team to Romney Stadium this weekend to face WAC opponent Utah State. Total Blue Sports caught up with a couple of Cougar defenders to get the scouting report on the Aggies' offense.

The Cougars are coming off back-to-back shutouts over UCLA and Wyoming. The last time the Aggies faced the Cougars back on September 23, 2006, Utah State left Provo with a 38-0 loss. The Cougars will look to continue their shutout streak on Friday, but first they must contain sophomore quarterback Diondre Borel.

"The strength of their offense is their quarterback," said Cougar safety David Tafuna. "He's really athletic, agile and has a lot of speed. Our focus will be to contain him by not letting him out of the pocket. If we're able to do that, than the routes won't be as complicated as what we've seen in past games. As long as we take care of the quarterback, we should be able to take care of the routes. I think he would be the one that could beat us this week."

"Offensively, we feel they've established the run with the quarterback, which wasn't the case early in the season," said junior linebacker Shawn Doman. "He's really fast - similar to Jake Locker, but not as big."

BYU fans can expect the Cougar defense to play a similar defensive package to what it utilized against the Huskies of Washington. The emphasis by the defense during that game was to control the rushing lanes up front and force the quarterback to beat them through the air.

"It's exactly like Washington, except [Borel] won't run over us, he'll run around us," said Tafuna. "He's fast and really quick on his feet, but he's not quite as big as Locker is. Our defense will pretty much be the same format."

"They run a similar offense where they like to focus on the option ride," Doman said. "So yeah, it's similar [to Washington] in that way. They'll also spread it out and motion for quarterback draws or quick throws to try to keep the ball moving downfield."

Because the Aggies have a rushing quarterback in Borel, who leads the team in rushing yardage with 217 yards, and capable wide receivers with some speed, the offense is based on the spread with some option ride.

"Yeah, they definitely like to spread the receivers out and get them on an island," Tafuna said. "They like to run a spread offense, but they also like to try and trick you with screens and crossing routes."

Whereas BYU opted to defend Washington's spread offense with an outside linebacker, there is a good chance BYU's defense could field an extra cornerback in Brandon Bradley, much like what was done against UCLA on situational plays. Regardless of the personnel in the game, they will face some quality skill-position players.

"I think Utah State matches up athletically with any player we've faced so far," said Tafuna. "That also includes UCLA and Washington. They have just as good of receivers as any of those teams we've faced. They're tall, athletic, and this is what we've seen on film. I'm surprised they've lost so many games."

"Yeah I agree with David," said Doman. "They have great athletes that are fast. I think they're still trying to establish themselves to try and get that offense going. We think they're getting a lot better."

The Aggies have both a mix of size and speed at the wideout position. One receiver that has more speed than size is Stanley Morrison, who comes in at about 5 feet 8 inches and 156 pounds. Morrison played high school football in Texas, where he was named by Athlon Sports as a "rising star." He also was selected to play in the Texas All-Star game as a senior in high school.

"He's their quick-speed receiver," said Tafuna about Morrison. "He's not very tall, but he's a guy that can hurt you with yards after the catch. He's more of a Z or inside receiver who is kind of their go-to guy."

A taller receiver on the Aggie roster is Otis Nelson, who comes in at about 6 feet 4 inches and 214 pounds. A senior, Nelson brings the most experience to the Aggie receiving corps after having played in 11 games last season. He finished the year ranked third on the team in both receptions and yards, with 20 catches for 189 yards.

"He's a physical receiver because he's big, so the Utah State coaches like to bring him for blocking situations as well," said Tafuna regarding Nelson.

Tafuna said communication will be key in order to limit the Aggie offense.

"Some of their offensive formations they run successfully are scissor routes," Tafuna said. "It's when you have two receivers in a three receiver set, either three by one or two by one in a four receiver set, so you'll have the number one receiver runs a post and the number two receiver will run a corner route. So, we have to be on top of our game and communicate. If we don't communicate we could have problems."

"We're not going to do anything different," said Doman. "We're just going to be ourselves."

If the wide receivers are just as talented as those already faced by the Cougars, than why is Utah State only 1-3 on the season so far? The reason may come down to the level of talent the Aggies have fielded at a different position.

"I believe it is attributed to their offensive line," Tafuna said. "I think they've had some struggles up front, but as far as their skill positions [go] they look pretty good."

"Their [offensive line] isn't as big as some of the Pac-10 teams we've faced in the past," said Doman. "I think they're still trying to develop that side of their offense, but they could come up with a scheme that could hurt us, so we have to come out hard and ready to play."

Currently, Borel is averaging 4.4 yards per carry and has one rushing touchdown on the season. Also running the ball will bes 5-foot-10-inch, 210-pound running back Robert Turbin, who rushed 143 times for 1,232 yards while a senior in high school.

"Their running back is also pretty good," said Tafuna. "On film he seems to also be pretty fast. He's a running back that likes to run over you as well as run around you, so he has both power and finesse. What we've seen mostly though is that he's a scat back."

"Their running backs are pretty quick," said Doman. "Our coaches have said they don't have a lot of yards, but that doesn't mean they're not great athletes. The reason for that could be because of other areas, but we still have to account for them because they are good athletes. We have to be aware of them and their quarterback because they can run the ball."

Keys To Victory

The Cougar defenders will likely take the field against Utah State with a goal of getting a third straight shutout firmly on their minds. The keys to accomplishing that goal will first start with stopping the run and forcing Utah State into a passing game.

"We're going to have to come out and be physical," said Tafuna. "Whenever a team plays physical, the other team focuses more on not getting hit rather than just playing. If we come out and play physical and can stop the run to force the passing game, we'll be fine."

"I think we can't take this team lightly," said Doman. "We have to come out and play fast and physical and keep the momentum on our side while keeping them from gaining any. We have to contain their run game and we should be fine."

Cougar Conversations

BYU has four true freshmen that have seen about a game's worth of experience due to the large scores put up by the Cougar offense. One of those true freshmen is Michael Alisa, who talks about the upcoming game against Utah State and the young linebackers that have received early playing time.


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