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Utah State Position Preview: Running Back

A in depth look at the Utah State running back position

NCAA Football: Frisco Bowl-Utah State vs Kent State Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

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.

This Week: Running Back

This will be an interesting position for the Aggies this Fall and will be very important to the success of the Utah State offense. Last season Jaylen Warren led Utah State in rushing yards for the first three games before Gerold Bright took over for the rest of the season. This season, Utah State has a plethora of running backs on roster so who are the most likely to see playing time?

Jaylen Warren (Senior)

I would expect to see Jaylen Warren as the starter. He made some good plays at the beginning of the 2019 season so it goes to think that he would get the starting nod at least in the season opener. Utah State is going to need experience going up against Boise State. Las year, Warren finished with 569 on 112 attempts and scored five touchdowns. He was a junior college transfer and was rated as the fourth best junior college running back per 247 sports. Utah State needs to get started fast and cannot afford to stall against Boise State or San Diego State, so Warren probably gets the start.

Devonta’e Henry-Cole (Senior; Grad Transfer)

Cole is a transfer from the University of Utah and played in 25 games for the Utes. During his time at Utah, he didn’t see many starts but did rush for 469 yards on 90 carries and scored four touchdowns. It is not hard to think that Henry-Cole may split playing time with Warren in the season opener. Running back is a position that may grow thin due to COVID-19 and injuries so Utah State having depth and getting players experience will be a key to success.

Pailate Makakona (Sophomore)

This is a player that might also share playing time with Jaylen Warren. Makakona redshirted the 2019 season and comes from Colorado Mesa University. At Colorado Mesa, Makakona rushed for 558 yards on 119 attempts and also scored five touchdowns. In high school Makakona rushed for 1.250 yards and 12 touchdowns as a senior. He does not have as much experience as a player such as Warren but don’t be surprised if Makakona sees some opportunities to make some plays as Warren did last year.

John Gentry (Freshman)

John Gentry was a three start recruit in the 2019 class and was ranked as the 52nd best high school running back in the nation per 247 sports. Gentry had offers from Utah State, Hawaii, Arkansas, Utah, and Colorado State. As a senior, Gentry had 18 catches and 10 touchdowns. Gentry earned first team all district honors as a junior as he gained over 900 yards and scored 24 touchdowns. He also returned punts and kickoffs and totaled 3,586 all-purpose yards and scored 48 touchdowns. Utah State could end up giving Gentry a chance at some point this season, similar for what Boise State did with George Holani in 2019. Holani did not come in as the starting running back but eventually won over the job as a true freshmen and he also continued Boise State’s long streak of 1,000 yard rushers. This isn’t saying that Gentry will have the same success as Holani, but giving him a chance shouldn’t be counted out.

Oakley Hussey (Freshman)

Hussey redshirted the 2019 season named the 4A High Country Offensive Player of the Year and All-Area Player of the Year by The Post Register after leading the Knights to a 4A state title. He rushed for a career high 1,459 yards and 16 touchdowns and also had seven 100 yard rushing games. He has proven that he can be successful at the high school level, especially after leading his team to a state title game, and he could potentially see time on the field as well this year. The key for Hussey as well as other freshmen on the Utah State roster to see any playing time is to impress during fall camp. That may be more important this year than in most with the issues of injuries and COVID-19 because it could mean more opportunities for those who do not usually play much.

Cooper Jones (Sophomore)

Jones spent his freshmen season in Junior college playing as a wide receiver and returning punts. He returned 21 punts for 239 yards. In high school, Jones finished with 863 yards rushing and nine touchdowns as a senior. He had 932 rushing yards and 19 total touchdowns in his career and played various other sports in high school. Due to not primarily playing the running back position in junior college, he may have less of a chance to play than other running backs on the roster but it will be hard to tell if depth becomes an issue.

Bryan Lumsden (Sophomore)

Lumsden spent two seasons with the University of Mary where he had 1,037 and 11 touchdowns over 22 games and he led the team in rushing in both seasons. It is possible the Lumsden could see playing time due to two years of experience at the junior college level, however it will be interesting to see how that compares with a year at Utah State (Jaylen Warren) or two years at Utah (Devonta’e Henry-Cole).

Elelyon Noa (Freshman)

Noa was a three star recruit from the 2019 class and was rated as the 146th best running back in the nation according to 247 sports. He only played in six games his senior season due to injury and rushed for 1,085 yards and 11 touchdowns as a prep senior. and he rushed for 2,326 yards and 25 touchdowns as a junior. He had career totals of 5,830 yards rushing, 161.9 yards per game, and 55 rushing touchdowns. He had offers from Boise State, Utah State, Hawaii, Idaho, and Iowa State. More teams would probably have taken more notice of Noa had it not been for the injury and Noa could prove to be a wildcard for Utah State if his high school numbers are any indication.

So... who starts?

Well, even though there are a lot of players that could be vying for playing time, it is likely going to be Jaylen Warren as he spent last year with the Aggies and did pretty decent before George Bright took over and he still saw playing time after that. As previously mentioned, Utah State may go with experience because of the first two games against Boise State and San Diego State as there will be little room for error.