Playing in the pass-happy Big West Conference, and playing nonconference foes BYU and Utah, defensive backs had better be good at Utah State. This season should be no exception, though only senior cornerback Donald Toomer earned any postseason/preseason recognition from the league, and that was honorable mention in 1993.
"I have high expectations from the secondary. I really do," says Aggie defensive coordinator Dick Bumpas, who has experienced seniors at all four of the five positions and several experienced seniors as backups."Cornerback is a strength for us," says Bumpas. Toomer and probably junior Terrance Gaines will be the starters, Gaines having perhaps beaten out incumbent Chuck McMillian for the right side. "Gaines has had an exceptional preseason," says Bumpas. "Last spring and this summer, he's done an extreme amount of work. He's in great shape, has real good concentration and is performing on the field. He's going to be a factor."
Senior Tod Townsend is the other member of the foursome on the corners.
Toomer, who led the Big West in interceptions his sophomore season with six, is one of the leaders of what should be a good defensive Aggie team. "I expect a lot out of him. He's got the tools and the experience to make things happen," says Bumpas. "He's a good leader and a good person." While his interceptions dropped to two last season, he improved his consistency.
Senior weak safety Tyrone Trimble is another bright light in the defensive backfield. He took over the strong safety position in his first spring drills with the Aggies as a junior college transfer, then was moved to weak safety at the start of last season. It's an important and difficult positon in the five-back defense, because it's really more half-linebacker, half-safety, calling for both size, speed and agility. "We have always tried to find that magical guy that can do both, that can take on an iso play with the fullback and yet turn around and be a half-field cover guy," says Bumpas.
Senior Paul Gustafson and redshirt freshman Robert Crayton are weak-safety backups. Gustafson's also a backup, with Shawn Coleman, at strong safety.
Senior Markell McCain has moved into the free safety position, while senior Travis Schow, the Aggies' top returning tackler at 6.0 per game, moves to strong safety. McCain, who transferred last year from Contra Costa JC, "gives us a little more of an athlete at free safety," Bumpas says, noting the need to defend the opponent's best receiver while also blitzing. McCain's backup is the only newcomer, Spencer Waggoner, a junior from Mesa (Ariz.)