In fall camp a year ago, the offensive line was the showpiece of the outfit. Yes, Anthony Calvillo would star at quarterback, but the guys who would make that possible were nearly as well known, all with three, four, even five years in the USU program. Warren Bowers, sixth-year senior, all-Big West choice, was the anchor at center. Rich Tylski, Jed DeVries, Jaceson Maughan, Ernie Howren. Their names were household words in Logan and among NFL scouts.
Now, they're all gone.Woe to the Aggies? Not hardly.
"I've really been impressed with our group of newcomers, especially the offensive line," coach Charlie Weatherbie says. "The line is picking it up fast."
Says offensive coordinator Jim Zorn, "Last year, we had five guys we knew would start. This year, it's positively open, competitive." That's good.
Line coach Gene McKeehan has a dozen men in the starting mix. He can't guess who will stand in front of QB Matt Wells Sept. 3, and he can't predict which men will play what positions. He had six linemen in spring ball; three JC players and four freshmen joined in last week.
Newcomers, even some freshmen, will be factors, and the line will be deeper. "Inexperienced depth," McKeehan says, "but being inexperienced with good athletes is not a detriment."
The line will also be bigger than it's been in five or six years. If it were only bigger, McKeehan wouldn't be impressed, but, "We've got kids that can run," he says proudly. When he was recruiting, the men with the abilities he sought were also big, like 6-foot-5, 285-pound Shane Stevenson or 6-10, 305 Joe German.
McKeehan's also happy with the hungry attitude. "A very focused group. They don't balk at being corrected," he says. "A no-nonsense work ethic."
There are some important holdovers - part-time starter Brian Davies (tackle) and freshman All-America Darrin Mitchell (guard). "He understands the intensity," McKeehan says.
"My feeling is," says Mitchell, "I've got to make it three more years. The main thing was, I had a good line to play with, and I got a ring. My role is to do what they did for me. I know how to win now."
Also back are sophs Marcus Daley, who played some last year, and Robert Holmes, who centered a couple of years ago when Bowers was out for the year and then sat out last year with injury. He's competing with Shawn Griswold (a defensive regular last year) and Bountiful freshman Brandon Dyson for center.
JC transfers Stevenson and Randy Clemons are among the dozen in the hunt for starting jobs, and Weatherbie also mentions Ken Watts, a freshman.