There was a simulation of the season due to the postponement of the season but now there is no need for a simulation because Mountain West football is back starting October 24! In light of the cancelled simulation, each week this series will give an in depth look at a different position group leading up to game week and what each position group needs to do for Utah State to have success. There is two weeks to go until the Aggies begin their season. This week the series will cover wide receiver and running back. Next week will cover the defense leading up to the preview and prediction of Utah State at Boise State in less than two weeks.
This Week: Wide Receiver and Offensive Line
Let’s start with the wide receivers as this position group is more of a question for the Aggies than the offensive line. Utah State’s offense struggled with consistency last season and while various factors contributed to the struggles, one of the struggles was the inconsistency of the wide receiver group.
The leading receiver for the Aggies last season was Siaosi Mariner, who had 63 receptions for 987 yards and 10 touchdowns and Mariner was by far the most productive receiver. Starter Savon Scarver who was projected to be an impact player last year only had 24 receptions for 271 yards and no touchdowns. Deven Thompkins was the next closest player to match the production of Mariner with 40 receptions for 536 yards and four touchdowns followed closely by Caleb Reapp with 36 receptions 455 yards and four touchdowns Dereck Wright was the only other receiver that had more than one receiving touchdown last season and had 7 receptions on 102 yards and two touchdowns. If Utah State wants to be more successful on offense this season, the receivers need to step up their production. This season, the Aggies bring back starters Savon Scarver, Jordan Nathan, Deven Thompkins, and Carson Terell. They also bring back presumed back up Anjai Carter.
There is more experience this season and that production will need to show up quickly with games against Boise State and San Diego State to start the season. This season look out for the combination of Deven Thompkins and Savon Scarver. Scarver saw more playing time in 2019 than he has seen ever since first playing in 2017 and should see a lot of improvement. Deven Thompkins first saw the field for the Aggies in 2018 and had 9 receptions for 65 yards. He greatly improved those numbers in 2019 and will look to do even better in 2020. Jordan Nathan has seen the field ever since 2017 and saw a significant increase in number of receptions from 28 in 2018 to 56 in 2019. A trio of players who have seen a good amount of experience and development on the field should be important for the Aggies offense to move the ball.
Carson Terell is not technically a receiver, he is a tight end but serves an important role as a receiver and blocker. Terell had 13 receptions for 84 yards in 2019 and will likely look to improve on those receiving numbers this year. If the Aggies can find consistency in this group and are able to use that to their advantage, look for Utah State to keep games closer this season.
This is expected to be a strength of the Aggies this season. This year the expected starters are Junior Alfred Edwards at left tackle, Sophomore Heneli Bloomfield at left guard, Senior Demytrick Ali’ifua at center, Sophomore Karter Shaw at right guard, and Junior transfer Kyler Hack at right tackle.
During the 2019 season, Edwards started all 12 games he played in 764 offensive snaps and recorded seven knockdowns. Demytrick Ali’fua started 13 games at center for the Aggies in 2019 and played on 901 snaps, finishing with 33 knockdowns. In 2018, Ali’fua played in 13 games and started two games, recording 19 knockdowns on 380 snaps. Ty Shaw would have been the expected starter, however due to a suspension for a social media exchange, he is not currently on the roster. So his expected backup Heneli Bloomfield will likely get the start. In 2019 Bloomfield played in 13 games and made four starts. He played on 424 snaps and finished the season with 17 knockdowns. As a redshirt freshman in 2018, Bloomfield played on 53 snaps throughout three games. Karter Shaw started 13 games at right guard for the Aggies in 2019 and played on 889 snaps and had a team best 39 knockdowns. Shaw redshirted in 2018 and played in four games with 69 snaps, registering three knockdowns. The last expected starter on the offensive line is Kyler Hack, a transfer who spent a year in Junior college before coming to Utah State in 2018. He redshirted the 2018 season and played on 64 snaps, posting four knockdowns. In 2019, Hack played in nine games and had six starts at right tackle. He played on 553 snaps and posted 15.5 knockdowns throughout the season.
By looking at the list of offensive linemen, it is clear that Utah State brings back a lot of experience, and this doesn’t even include the backups to the presumed starters such as Andy Koch (LT), Chandler Dolphin (C), Wyatt Bowles (RG), and Jacob South (RT). The experience of this position group should help to benefit the Aggies more this season. Running the ball was something that Utah State struggled with last season but behind an experienced offensive line, running the ball and protecting the quarterback. Expect Utah State’s offensive line to be one of their best position groups.
Now that many of the members of the offensive line have had valuable playing time, in 2019, this should only help the Aggies be active in the fight for the Mountain West Conference. The Aggies defense should be good, but Utah State will not go far without a offense that is able to figure things out and move the ball.