Go up the middle on the Aggies, and you'll quickly meet two good reasons not to: defensive tackles Dave Balls, a 268-pound senior, and Pratt Lyons, a 6-foot-5, 265-pound soph who made quite a name for himself in '93.
The two end positions have yet to be determined, but Balls and Lyons started at tackle all last season and are among the top players on a veteran defense.Balls, the former Bonneville High all-stater from Ogden, has played well wherever the Aggies have put him. Tough but not flashy - unless you count the way he sometimes uses eye-black completely around both eyes instead of simply underneath, a practice that leaves him looking like Ozzy Osbourne - he settled into tackle last year after a 1992 season starting at right defensive end. Balls excelled in 1989 as a redshirt freshman at outside linebacker, then went on an LDS Church mission to Germany and Ohio and came back a defensive end. He has started 23 consecutive games and 25 of the 33 he's played at USU.
Lyons was a third-team Football News Freshman All-American and second-team All-Big West selection last season and is a first-team All-Big West Conference Preseason pick as a sophomore by both Football News and the Sporting News. His best game statistically was the one the Aggies won to give them a share of the Big West title and the Las Vegas Bowl bid - seven tackles including two for loss and a sack at New Mexico State Nov. 20, 1993. He led the Aggies in fumble recoveries with three in the regular season plus one in the bowl game.
A Texan, Lyons was recruited by Southwest Conference schools and Arkansas; Aggie coach Charlie Weatherbie, then an Arkansas assistant, brought Lyons with him to Logan.
While he's got two solid tackles, defensive coordinator Dick Bumpas hopes he have some depth there, too. Junior Todd Wright was moved inside to tackle at the start of fall practice. "He's a big kid with good foot speed, and if he comes along like I think he can, I've got a chance to keep people fresh inside," Bumpas says.
There's a battle at both ends as the Aggies replace graduated Scott Moala and Danie'l Taplin. "The ends are still slugging it out," Bumpas says, but he figures the positions are "about three-deep" with talent.
The Ags have two junior-college players who've looked good the last week - Dennis Paige and Eddie Davis. "Both have the ability," says Bumpas, adding their play in fall camp is "a confirmation. We thought they would be able to do it, and they are doing it," Last year's backups - Ken Freitas, Danilo Robinson, Matt Hauk and Lonnie Johnson - are also being considered along with freshman Ben Crossland.