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Is the Utah State Secondary Ready For the Heat In a New Conference?

There are lots of questions about USU's defensive backs' ability to stay competitive in a more challenging conference, especially after losing star cornerback Will Davis.

USU Cornerback Nevin Lawson
USU Cornerback Nevin Lawson
Tom Lynn

Last year, the Utah State Aggies had one of its most successful years in school history, not only in team achievements, but also individual ones. The Aggies have four players from last year’s squad playing in the NFL, more than any other year in school history.  Among them is cornerback Will Davis, a third round pick in the 2013 draft.  Davis is a fast, aggressive ball hawk who got national attention for snagging interceptions in each of the five final regular season games.  Losing Davis leaves a large hole to fill in the defensive backfield.  To further depress the Aggie faithful, Davis was joined by fellow seniors Terrance Alston (CB), starter McKade Brady (S), Isaiah Jones (CB), and Jumanne Robertson (CB).  Losing that much talent has got to hurt USU’s chances at a successful year, right?

Wrong.  Fortunately for USU fanatics everywhere, the defensive backfield should be a position of relative strength this year for the Aggies (relative because, honestly, there are several extremely deep and talented positions for the boys in blue, linebacker and offensive line in particular).  The corners will be anchored by veteran DB Nevin Lawson, who has started in 27 games for U-State, played in 35, recorded 128 career tackles, two career interceptions (both game clinchers), and last year had two sacks and four tackles for a loss.  Lawson was a second team all-conference player last year in the WAC, and is a preseason second (Phil Steele’s projections) and third team (Athlon Sports’ and College Sports Madness’ projections) all-conference player in the MWC.

While Lawson’s spot is clear, the decision for who will be playing across from him at the other corner position is far from decided.  The practices and scrimmages this week and next will pit the skills and determination of senior "Tay" (Devonta) Glover-Wright against juniors Rashard Stewart and Jeremy Morris.  Aggies will remember Tay for his role as backup wildcat QB, as well as his field time at corner last year.  My guess is that he will be the favorite to come out of this scramble with the starting position, but very positive reports about Stewart, who also saw playing time for the Aggies last year and has gained a reputation as a ball hawk this off-season, and Morris, a Juco transfer from Mesa Community College, make it anyone’s guess as to what the final outcome will be.

At safety, the Aggies will be even deeper than at corner.  Returning junior starter Brian Suite brings back the energy and intensity that fans have come to expect from USU’s defense over the past couple of seasons.  Suite’s performance improves under pressure, as demonstrated by his career high 13 tackles against Wisconsin last year; he is a quick, versatile player who, in his second year of play for the Aggies, is expected to further improve his performance this coming season.

Most likely to play beside Suite is returning senior starter Maurice Alexander.  After transferring to USU from Arizona Western College, Alexander finished the year tied for sixth on the team in tackles, third in sacks (which is especially impressive coming from the safety position) and fifth in tackles for loss.  His aggressive, smart style of play is a great asset to a team looking to repeat as a top 25 defense nationwide.  Backing up Suite and Alexander will most likely be returning senior Cameron Sanders, who played in nine games last year (he has played in 24 games total for the Aggies), and had 12 tackles on the season.

Many have questioned whether USU’s secondary will be up to par with the rigorous schedule that comes USU’s way this year with the move to the Mountain West Conference.  Many wondered whether they had lost too much to be serious contenders.  I think Lawson, Suite, and co. are answering emphatically: We’re ready for the challenge.

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