The Utah State Aggies football team opened fall camp on Friday, and prior to that, new head coach Blake Anderson met with media on Thursday.
“It’s good to get started,” he said. “The anticipation of just kind of finding out what this group can be is always the fun part.”
Anderson was asked about a variety of topics over the course of about 30 minutes. Here are four key takeaways from his comments.
The quarterback competition
Logan Bonner, who started for Anderson as quarterback at his previous stop at Arkansas State, has transferred to Utah State, and many have assumed he’ll beat out Andrew Peasley for the job this fall.
Anderson said that assumption is premature, however, as Peasley performed well during spring ball and has maintained his level over the past few months.
“It’s a wide-open competition,” Anderson said. “I’ve been really clear with Logan missing spring the way he did and really only being released fully a couple weeks ago, Peasley’s going to take the first snap with the 1s and Logan may take the second snap with the 1s. I don’t know. Maybe it’s a series-by-series, and we’re going to let them compete wide open.
“I feel like that Peasley separated himself enough from the rest of the group in the spring, and obviously the experience that we have and the amount of experience that Logan has of actually playing at the Division I level, we’re going to let those two guys go at it.”
Anderson was asked if he has any areas of concern, and he pointed to the depth on the lines, especially the offensive line.
“I’m really concerned about the offensive line depth,” he said. “We’re talented, but we’re not very deep. I would tell you kind of the same thing on the interior of the defensive line. Feel good about the people that we added, but we’re not real, real deep, so depth is a concern.”
The running backs
There’s a good deal of uncertainty at running back, especially after leading rusher Jaylen Warren transferred to Oklahoma State. Anderson said he hopes someone emerges as the lead back, but that has not happened yet.
“What I saw in the spring was a lot of guys that looked very similar,” he said. “I would love it if a guy really stood out this fall and we had a feature back. That’s where my mind goes, but I don’t know that’s the particular room that we have yet. That’s what fall camp’s going to be about.
“I think we have the luxury of playing a handful of guys that are all very efficient. It’ll be interesting to see if one really stands out that really separates himself, and if he does, then he’ll get more carries.”
Linebacker Justin Rice
Beside Bonner, another player who followed Anderson from Arkansas State is linebacker Justin Rice, who had played at Fresno State before ASU.
In other words, he’s got familiarity with both the Mountain West Conference and Anderson, and he’s been highly productive in both places. Last season at ASU, he led the nation in tackles for loss with 18.5, and the year before that, he received All-MWC honors.
“He’s in the best shape of his life right now,” Anderson said. “He truly has elevated his work ethic. I’ve challenged him a lot. That was probably his biggest deficiency, is just consistently, daily working. He’s changed that.
“He and (strength and conditioning coach) Paul Jackson have really hit it off. He’s done extremely well in that area, and I think he’s matured a lot, just in personality-wise, and it shows in his leadership with the guys on defense. We expect a lot of him, put a lot of pressure on him. He’s the quarterback of the defense. I expect him to play at an extremely high level, and I think he’s physically put himself in a position where he can.”