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Who will be Utah State’s next quarterback? Say hello to Cooper Legas

A former three-star recruit out of Orem High, Legas will replace the recently dismissed Jason Shelley as USU’s starting quarterback when the Aggies take on Wyoming Thursday night.

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Redshirt freshman quarterback Cooper Legas was named Utah State’s starting quarterback Monday, following the dismissal of junior Jason Shelley.

Utah State Athletics

The Cooper Legas era has officially begun at Utah State.

For a game at least.

USU interim head coach Frank Maile named Legas the Aggies’ starting quarterback Monday, ahead of Utah State’s rivalry game at Wyoming Thursday night. Legas replaces junior quarterback Jason Shelley, who, it was announced Sunday, was dismissed from the USU football program for a “violation of team rules.”

“Cooper is a winner, man,” Maile said. “He is a competitor, and we are looking forward to his leadership and competitiveness leading the Aggies to a W.”

Shelley’s primary backup through the first three games of the season was sophomore Andrew Peasley. Maile revealed, however, that Peasley has tested positive for COVID-19 — he did not dress for Utah State’s loss to Fresno State — and will not be available to play against Wyoming.

Which leads back to Legas (it is pronounced Lay-gah, per Utah State’s official pronunciation guide).

Who is he?

Legas has yet to see any game action while at Utah State. A redshirt freshman — he was a member of the Aggies’ 2019 recruiting class — Legas has been buried on the depth chart for a season and a half.

He was behind Jordan Love, Henry Colombi and Peasley his true freshman season, and then behind Shelley and Peasley through three games this year.

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Cooper Legas

Utah State Athletics

But, as Maile put it, Legas is a winner, and his high school career backs up that sentiment.

Legas was a six-time state champion student-athlete at Orem High School — a two-time football champion, a two-time wrestling champion and a two-time champion in the javelin throw.

“That is one of the main reasons we recruited him the first place,” Maile said. “He was a champion in three different sports... Cooper is a winner at the end of the day.”

And more to the point, a great football player, per former Orem High coach Jeremy Hill.

In a 2018 interview with the Deseret News’ Amy Donaldson, Hill described Legas as being the archetypal football player, a “Swiss army knife,” capable and willing to be used however the team would be best served.

“If you could build a football player, Cooper is who it would be,” Hill said. “He’s a 4.0 (grade point average) kid, taking AP classes, very intelligent, prepared, hard-working, and just a great kid. He has absolutely zero reservations. He’s always been phenomenal that way. … If I went to him and said, ‘Coop, in this championship game, we need you at safety.’ … He wouldn’t hesitate. He just wants to help the team win a state championship.” 

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Orem’s quarterback Cooper Legas avoids the rush of Sky View’s Duncan Mcrae and runs for a touchdown in 4A football state semifinal action at Rice-Eccles stadium at the University of Utah on Friday, Nov. 10, 2017. Orem won 28-12.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

And did he. Legas was instrumental in leading the Tigers to back-to-back state titles, the program’s first since the mid-1990s (Orem has now won three consecutive state titles and is appearing in a fourth straight championship game later this week).

Legas racked up stats along the way, proving himself one of Utah’s best prep quarterbacks at the time. Over the course of his high school career, he:

  • Played in 43 games, totaling 12,780 yards (297.2 yards per game), including 9,770 yards passing, 2,770 yards rushing and 240 yards receiving.
  • Accounted for 124 total touchdowns — 101 passing, 22 rushing and one receiving.
  • Completed 555 of 858 pass attempts for a completion percentage of 65%.
  • Was named the Deseret News’ 4A MVP after racking up 5,415 yards of total offense as a senior, a year in which he threw 48 touchdown passes to only 11 interceptions.
  • A three-star recruit, Legas was rated the 39th-best dual-threat quarterback in the country and the 19th-best overall prospect in Utah by 247Sports.

“I’ve never come across a kid quite like him,” Hill told the Deseret News’ James Edward after Legas was named 4A MVP. “He’s where he’s supposed to be, he’s the hardest worker in the weight room, he’s always to practice early and stays after practice to throw balls to receivers.”

For all his success on the gridiron, Legas may have been an even more impressive wrestler and javelin thrower. It was his wrestling prowess that particularly impressed Maile.

“You can fudge a little when talking about football, because it is a team sport, but when you talk about wrestling, there is a mentality it takes to win a championship,” Maile said. “That is an individual sport where you can’t call for help from anybody. Again, Cooper is a winner.”

Standing at 6-foot-2 and weighing in at 205 pounds, Legas has the confidence of teammates already.

“Cooper is a smart kid, a younger kid, but he is smart,” All-American kick returner/wide receiver Savon Scarver said. “That man works hard. When he first got here, when I was throwing with him, he had a real strong arm and could zip the ball pretty on the money every time. We have him working hard and he is going to be ready to go for sure.”

After getting off to an 0-4 start to the season, USU’s worst start since 2007, that is really all the Aggies can hope for.

And while Peasley is listed as QB1 on the current Utah State depth chart, Legas could win the starting quarterback job permanently if the trip to Laramie goes well enough.

He is a “winner” after all.