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Loss of Utah State linebacker David Woodward to a season-ending injury a ‘huge blow for every Aggie’

Woodward will miss the remainder of the season, after tallying 93 tackles in seven games

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David Woodward vs. New Mexico State (9/8/18)

David Woodward walks off the field against New Mexico State on Sept. 8, 2018. Woodward is out for the remainder of the 2019 season, following an undisclosed injury.

Wade Denniston, USU Athletic Media Relations

LOGAN — There was a notable face absent when the Utah State Aggies took the field against BYU Saturday night at Maverik Stadium: junior linebacker David Woodward.

His is a face Aggie fans won’t see again this season.

Utah State coach Gary Andersen confirmed postgame, in an interview with 1280 the Zone, that Woodward would be out the remainder of the season, due to an undisclosed injury.

On Monday, the head coach reflected on the loss of Woodward and what it means for Utah State football going forward.

“Not having David is a huge blow for every Aggie, at every level,” Andersen said. “It’s the hardest for him, trust me. It’s the hardest for the kid. He’ll get through it.”

He has before.

While at Olympia High School in Olympia, Washington, Woodward fractured two vertebrae in his back, per The Olympian, an injury which required he redshirt his junior season.

The linebacker has also suffered from concussions, the latest of which kept him out against the Cougars, as reported by the AggieUp Podcast.

Even with Woodward’s injury history, the latest setback is a devastating one.

“It’s a devastating blow for a young man to be in that spot,” said Andersen. “As a player, I had two half-seasons taken away from me, and it’s tough.”

Elijah Shelton and AJ Vongphachanh have emerged as Woodward’s replacements — Shelton finished with seven tackles against BYU — but considerably more work is needed going forward.

“We need to continue to help Elijah and AJ to get better and to work out there as a unit,” Andersen said. “(We need to) make sure that Kevin (Meitzenheimer) doesn’t feel like he has to just take care of the freshmen all the time. We have to get them lined up so that Kevin can do his job as well as he can. It’s a big blow and our kids need to pick it up from where it is and go from there.”

Andersen addressed a number of additional topics during his weekly press conference.

— On the loss of senior defensive tackle Fua Leilua to a season-ending injury earlier this year, in light of the Woodward news:

I don’t think it’s fair to Fua (Leilua) if we just forget about Fua, because he wasn’t there (after) the first game of the year. If we’re talking about guys that have been gone for the year that are great players, Fua has to be mentioned in that spot, also. It’s not an excuse because we lost him, that’s where we’re at and the way that we’re playing, but I think it’s in fairness to Fua to recognize him as a great player that was with us and is no longer with us.

— On how the Aggies can improve upon their tackling after dismal showings against Air Force and BYU:

There are a lot of things you can actually do. There are opportunities to leverage the ball a little bit differently with some other defenders that are on the field… You can improve angles, even if you’re not really physical in your tackling and you’re getting guys down to the ground… There’s the point to where the tackle takes place that you can strive to improve on as you work through practice. There are times where you need to lay your hands on people and wrap them up, sometimes to the ground and sometimes just to get into the position to physically be able to take them to the ground. There are things we can work on.

— On whether or not tackling has the team’s biggest issue defensively:

There is a lot that goes into that. It would be a cop-out sitting here in any way, shape or form as a coach to just sit say, ‘Oh, well, if the guys tackled better, or our scheme is perfect, we’re great coaches and we just have to tackle better.’ That’s not the case. We can work to tweak the schemes and help the guys to get where they need to be and have a better understanding. We’ll work to get the guys better. We can help them. That’s the key thing to help them and make sure that’s crystal clear in their minds and it’s clean, they play fast and precise. Just because it looks good on the board all the time doesn’t mean it always looks good out on the field, so we’ll work to do that. Last week, our goal was to play fast, physical and smart. We need to be more physical. We need to put the players in a position to be more physical, also. We can help them do that.

• • •

Aggies on the air

Utah State (4-4, 3-1) at Fresno State (4-4, 2-2)

Bulldog Stadium, Fresno, CA

Saturday, 5 p.m. MST

TV: CBS Sports Network

Radio: KZNS 1280 AM