LOGAN — In August of 2017, Utah State quarterback Jordan Love was a redshirt freshman looking to back up senior Kent Myers as the season approached. But before the season was over, Love became the starter during the final six games, helping lead the Aggies to a 3-3 record down the stretch.
This year, he's all alone atop the depth chart with fall camp underway.
Love has downplayed the move from backup to starter, at least in terms of fall camp.
"As a backup, you've got to practice like you're the starter because you never know what might happen," Love said. "You might get in. At the end of the day it's not too much different. The only thing that's different is that you're getting (number) one reps."
It's a good thing for Utah State that Love was prepared when his number was called earlier than expected. And while fall camp may not seem that different to Love one year later, it's clear he has come a long way since then.
"He's a completely different guy than when we started camp last year," said offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach David Yost. "You get the feeling that this is his team. It's his group. He takes responsibility for not just himself but the offense. That's what the maturation of a quarterback is. He doesn't evaluate himself on, 'Hey, I had a good day.' It's we had a good day."
That maturity shows when asked how fall camp was going.
"I think we started right where we left off last season. We've been making good strides," Love said. As Yost pointed out, Love talked about the team and not just himself.
That doesn't mean Love hasn't been working hard on improving his own game. Last season Love completed 54.9 percent of his passes for 1,631 yards and eight touchdowns with six interceptions to finish with a QB rating of 119.3. While Love had his moments, including two 70-yard or longer touchdown passes against UNLV, there's still plenty of room for improvement.
"I'm trying to get more accurate," Love said. "I've just been throwing with receivers and getting my timing down. I've been working out and trying to get bigger, stronger and faster."
And his playmaking ability is apparent in practice.
"He checked us out of a bad play today and gave us a good red-zone run. That's part of the maturation. He's ahead of schedule for a young player being just a sophomore, but he's the guy. He's what we need, and he's moving in that direction quickly," Yost said.
Love also has no lack of players to throw to, which include both seasoned veterans and talented newcomers. All three of Utah State's top receivers return from last season, including Ron'quavion Tarver and preseason All-MWC tight end Dax Raymond.
"I'm really excited about who we got both outside and inside. We've got a lot of weapons with some new guys coming in," Love said.
"We want to make sure that we're getting the playmakers the ball with guys like Tarver and (Savon) Scarver coming back and the inside guys with (Jordan) Nathan and (Aaren) Vaughns and DJ Nelson going in there. We've got a lot of weapons," Yost said. "We're going to be running the ball as much as we can and we're going to attack vertically and make big plays with the passing game."
Another thing that makes Love feel good about the upcoming season is his offensive line.
"It feels going knowing that I've got all five (starting offensive linemen) back," he said. "That's a really good O-line right there. I know I'm going to be protected all season."
Running back battle
With so many returning starters, the major position battle on the offensive side of the ball is at running back with last year's two leading rushers LaJuan Hunt and Myers both having moved on. According to the depth chart, the two tailbacks fighting for the starting position are converted wide receiver Gerold Bright and JC transfer Darwin Thompson.
"Bright moving over there last year was real positive," Yost said. "Adding in Darwin from the junior college and getting guys back. Eltoro (Allen) is completely healthy. Morian Walker is completely healthy, which is a big step from what he's had to deal with the last couple of years. Now Tre (Miller) has a whole year under his belt. He's healthy after spring dealing with a cast and everything. Now he's back in that mix with us. There's a lot of competition going. We have only one ball and we are going to play one back at a time."