A great deal of uncertainty remains about who will suit up at quarterback for Utah State on Saturday night against rival Wyoming.
Per head coach Blake Anderson, Cooper Legas (concussion) and Levi Williams (ankle) are still day-to-day, dealing with injuries suffered against Colorado State — defensive end Byron Vaughns (concussion) is as well — and there won’t be any real clarity about their respective statuses for another day or two.
“Everything for us is day-to-day at this point,” Anderson said. “They were clearly obvious injuries and with protocols in place it is going to really depend on what happens in the next 24 or 48 hours, what kind of progress those guys make.
“We will follow the protocol. They are in the protocol. If cleared, we will be ready for them to play and if not we will be ready to play without them.”
If Legas and Williams are unavailable, the Aggies will need to turn once again to true freshman Bishop Davenport.
Right now, Utah State is preparing as if Davenport will play against the Cowboys.
“It is safe to say that he (Davenport) will get plenty of reps this week with Levi beat up and Coop beat up and all of them being day-to-day,” Anderson said. “(Davenport) will get reps and we will get him ready.”
Utah State has a lot of confidence in Davenport’s ability — inexperience notwithstanding — with Anderson noting that he was limited against the Rams by a lack of practice reps as well as a shortened playbook.
“We were pretty tight,” Anderson said. “We kept it to base stuff that he had had a lot of reps with in fall camp. We tried to make sure they were things that he would be comfortable with.”
Even with that, Davenport did exactly what a true freshman quarterback was supposed to do. Even more, possibly.
“You could see that the moment was not too big for him,” Anderson said. “He is a very calm and competitive individual who has played in stadiums of 40,000 and 50,000 people in the (high school) playoffs in Texas. That wasn’t something that really took him aback.
“He protected the ball really well and did not turn it over, which is what you ask of any freshman. And he did a great job with his feet. ... I thought he did a great job in terms of his reads — run-pass reads and run-run reads. Protecting the ball is critical and they (Colorado State) have a really good (defensive) front and were able to get to him a few times. He made good decisions.”
Davenport has talent — a 3-star recruit coming out of Spring High School, Davenport played at the highest level of Texas high school football — and Anderson expects to utilize him more against Wyoming, if both Legas and Williams are unable to go.
“There is a lot more we can do with him,” Anderson said. “He understands the system extremely well. ... He is in good shape and has run the ball his whole career. His feet are valuable. His ability to run obviously was a problem.”
Regardless of which quarterback suits up for the Aggies, they will need to be capable of running the ball. The quarterback run game, be it on designed runs, RPOs (run-play options) or scrambles, has helped Utah State turn its season around.
“Obviously Cooper and Levi and even Bishop are a little bit more mobile, a little more of a threat in the run game,” offensive lineman Wade Meacham said. “I think it has honestly helped us a little bit.
“We’d still love to have Logan (Bonner) in the back field. He’s been an amazing leader and inspiration to our team, but having quarterbacks that can scramble and threaten the defense with their feet and arms at the same time opens things up for us. We can run the ball with running backs and quarterbacks and keep the defense guessing.”
Both Legas and Williams were injured while running the ball, but Anderson remains committed to the quarterback run game.
“We are in the mix, we are in the heat of this thing, and I told (offensive coordinator Antony Tucker), ‘You have to call plays to win the game.’” Anderson said. “We cannot be afraid to run the offense. We encourage all of those guys (Legas, Williams and Davenport) to be smart, but we want defenses to have to defend the entire offense.”
Riding a two-game winning streak, there is a belief that Utah State can win Saturday, regardless of who suits up at quarterback.
“I am riding with Bishop. If Coop come back, or Levi come back, I’m riding with any quarterback we’ve got,” defensive end Daniel Grzesiak said. “They are prepared. They all look good to me.”