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FOR USU, LIFE IS LIKE A PAN OF POPCORN

It's getting old, even for Charlie Weatherbie. The Utah State football youth movement is a painful thing to watch, especially since it centers in one area - the offense. Specifically, it's the offensive line, which will be juggled again for Friday night's game at BYU because of injuries and because the chemistry still isn't there.

The frustrating part for a coach and team coming off a league- and bowl-championship season is that the problems, in the line and sometimes elsewhere, crop up haphazardly. Nobody can foresee the next mistake."It's like popcorn," Weatherbie says. "One guy here, one guy there, two guys there. It's just not a total unit, and until it becomes a total unit, we'll have a hard time being successful."

USU is 1-3, coming off a 23-21 loss to a UNLV team it thinks it should have been able to beat Saturday. "The defense played pretty well early," Weatherbie says, "but the offense - it got to be, "Oh no, the offense isn't producing.

"I don't think there's tension" among offensive and defensive squads, he says. "They just kind of wonder, are they going to get a first down? Are they going to score a touchdown?" In four games, USU has one drive of six or more plays. It's scored 59 points with just six touchdowns on offense.

Now USU meets a BYU team picked to win the WAC and still indignant that the Aggies won in Logan last year 58-56.

"You've got to be consistent to be successful," Weatherbie says. But tell him it'll be hard to become consistent against BYU, and he stiffens. "Why do you say that?" he snaps. "Hard work pays off," he says. USU works hard.

"It's missed assignments. Not very often is it getting physically beaten. It's techniques and assignments, is what's beating us. I wouldn't say it's youth; it's experience," he says.

Coaches drill players on assignments, but they may be moved to a new position to plug another injury leak and have to learn new roles. "We're trying to get the five best offensive linemen," says Weatherbie, "but one week, he may be a guard, and the next week he may be a tackle. We don't want to go down to a walkon to find a guard, so we try to move guys around."

Actually, they are down to a walkon. Basketball/football walkon Novich Hunter is a starting tackle. Or maybe he's a guard. He used to be a tight end.

Weatherbie sees small signs of improvement each week and says, "One of these days, the light's going to click on and, `Ahhh, yeah, that's the way it should be every play."'

Someone asked Weatherbie publicly to relate why the line's in such disarray. Weatherbie ran off a list of lost linemen that sounded like the Logan phonebook, starting with four who never made it to spring ball because of career-ending injuries. Add season-ending injuries to Brian Davies and Marcus Daley, the loss of a projected starter to a JC transcript mixup and throw in routine injuries to several others, and it's chronic musical chairs.

USU has, however, settled again on sophomore Matt Wells as quarterback. He was replaced as starter by freshman Aaron Flowers last week, but Wells played the fourth quarter and nearly pulled off a comeback win.

Strong safety Travis Schow, a senior, is out for a couple of weeks with an ankle sprain.