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No QB controversy at USU

Travis Cox will be the starter for the Aggies

LOGAN — There's no quarterback controversy at Utah State. Halfway through spring drills, Travis Cox has solidified his standing as the Aggies' new starter.

"He's our No. 1 guy — without question," USU coach Mick Dennehy said. "And I think it's obvious to everyone that's been around in terms of the program, even though he doesn't have a lot of game experience."

Cox, who starre at Mountain Crest High School in nearby Hyrum, hasn't seen a lot of action since redshirting in 2000. There simply weren't many opportunities playing behind three-year starter Jose Fuentes. In his first two seasons on the active roster, Cox completed 9-of-16 passes for 23 yards with one touchdown and an interception.

"When Travis has had a chance to play he's actually played pretty darn well," Dennehy said. "I've seen a big change in Travis since Jose has left in terms of assuming a leadership role and doing things the way they should be done if you are going to be the guy.

"He's really done a nice job of getting the guys together and being a positive influence on the group," Dennehy added. "I think everything that Travis has done since the season has ended has been very, very positive for our football team."

As the only quarterback in camp with any Division I experience, Cox knows the starting job is his to lose — something he doesn't plan to do.

"I've been here for a long time and I'm just glad I'm getting the opportunity to play. I know the offense inside and out, " Cox said while acknowledging his lone shortcoming is a lack of game snaps. "I feel good about everything else. I feel I can run the offense."

Dennehy and former teammate Kevin Curtis, who is finishing up school while awaiting the NFL Draft, share similar confidence in his abilities.

"Jose did a great job and I think Cox is going to kind of pick up where he left off," Curtis said. "I'm excited to watch him. I think he's been a good quarterback, he's just kind of been waiting for his turn."

In Saturday's controlled scrimmage at Romney Stadium, Cox completed 7-of-10 passes for 94 yards and a score. While noting the other quarterbacks in camp (redshirts Matt Crivello, Stuart Perry and Bryan Black) are talented, Dennehy said none are as familiar with USU's complex offense. Cox is way ahead, he explained, and deserves to be the starter.

"It's not easy. We put a lot of responsibility on your shoulders," Dennehy said. "We expect the quarterback to be the coach on the field."

Decision-making is an big part of the job. So, too, is versatility. Cox carries both attributes which should help bolster USU's sagging ground game. The Aggies, in fact, have added a few components to their offense in an effort to capitalize on his athleticism.

"He'll make some plays maybe that Jose couldn't have made in terms of getting out of trouble when the pocket starts collapsing around him and things like that," said Dennehy. "I've been real pleased with him. He's not 100 percent ready, but he's getting better every day and doing all the right things."

TOSSING AND TURNING: USU's offense shined Saturday with three touchdowns and a field goal.

"Defensively, they have been getting after us a little bit (in practice) and I think our offensive guys went to sleep last night with their minds made up that they were going to come out with a point to prove today," Dennehy said as he praised the offensive line for setting the tone. "I thought they did a nice job."

David Fiefia, who led all rushers with 42 yards on four carries, broke several tackles with a 19-yard scoring run. The other touchdowns came on 15-yard strikes from Cox to Patrick McNutt and Crivello to Jason Thomas. Justin Hamblin later capped the point production with a 25-yard kick.

Defensively, bright spots included Reggie Willson picking off a pass and sacks by Michael Gates and Justin Jackson.

UPCOMING SCRIMMAGES: The Aggies will hold a scrimmage at Northridge High School in Layton Friday at 7 p.m. On April 11, USU concludes spring drills with the annual Blue-White game at Romney Stadium. Kickoff is slated for 6:30 p.m. Both events are open to the public.

GREAT HEIGHTS: On Thursday, USU's "Pro Day" took place as several NFL scouts took a close look at last season's seniors.

"I thought the kids tested pretty well and did a good job," said Dennehy.

None, however, made a greater impression than cornerback Ade Jimoh. The 6-foot-1, 190-pounder had a vertical jump that measured 46 1/2 inches—believed to be a record for NFL prospects.

Though noted for having great explosiveness, Jimoh's leap was quite unexpected. Dennehy called it unbelievable—a height he felt only volleyball players could reach.

The NFL is intrigued. Several teams plan to fly Jimoh in for a closer look prior to the draft.


E-mail: dirk@desnews.com