Markosian filling in at center while Larsen recovers from surgery
USU defense shines in first outdoor practice
Utah State’s football team took its act outdoors for the first time this spring, and the players enjoyed the change of venue.
The Aggies held their first four practices this month at the Indoor Laub Training Center, but were under the lights at Romney Stadium on Wednesday morning.
“It was good to be back out on the field again under the lights,” USU guard Jamie Markosian said. “The offense was a little slow today, but we’ve got little things we can work on and keep improving.
“O-line-wise, we’ve got to be a little bit more consistent, a little more physical. We’re getting there, though. We’re still a little young in the depth, but we’re coming along nicely.”
Linebacker Kyler Fackrell prefers being outside — most players probably do — rather than being confined indoors.
“It was nice,” Fackrell said. “At least for me personally, I think it’s easier to breathe. I love the fresh air. I think there’s a different energy, a better energy, when we’re outside.”
First-year head coach Matt Wells noticed the energy, as well.
“It was good to get outside,” Wells said. “There was some good energy and we had another workman-like attitude. It’s just good to get out in some space and see the guys catching some balls off of a foot.
“I liked the way Jaron (Bentrude) punted and seeing the punt catchers, some stuff like that where you’re limited in the indoor. That was good.”
The offense dominated the early portion of practice, but that all changed toward the end.
“Like coach was just saying, at the beginning the offense was winning skelly and the inside run drills,” Fackrell said. “But then once we got into team, into the red zone and the live stuff, we brought a better energy.”
After all, the defense kept the offense out of the end zone during the red zone drills. Running back Abou Toure nearly bulldozed his way to a touchdown, but he ended up fumbling and cornerback Dee Hamala recovered for the defense.
“The defense did really well in the red zone,” Markosian said. “Our whole team prides itself on red-zone play, whether it’s offense or defense. Offensively, we’ve got to score points. We’ve got to move the line of scrimmage as an O-line and we’ve got to get in the end zone as specialists and skills guys.
“The defense, though, they played their hearts out. They did a really good job and bowed up there at the goal line, and that’s what they do day in and day out, so all the credit goes to them.”
Markosian has been playing center this spring while two-time first-team all-Western Athletic Conference performer Tyler Larsen recovers from offseason back surgery.
“It’s a little bit different,” Markosian said. “I’ve been playing guard for a year-and-a-half, and then I’ve got to play center now, too. It’s just different technique-wise. I’m having fun and trying to get it down, and doing my best at it.”
What has Wells seen from Markosian and the rest of the offensive line this spring?
“It’s been good at times and there are times, like down there in the red zone, we’ve got to find a way to get the ball in the end zone — either protecting the passer or we’re running the ball in,” Wells said. “But I think their eagerness to continue to improve has been good. They’ve adapted well to (offensive line) coach (Mark) Weber — there may be a new technique here or there, but for the most part we’re still doing the same stuff.”
Besides Hamala’s fumble recovery on Wednesday, Wells also singled out the play of Fackrell and cornerback Nevin Lawson, who broke up a pass on a fade ball.
Wells couldn’t single out any offensive highlights when asked.
“No, nothing. Zero,” Wells said. “Nothing fired me up in the red zone today.”
The Aggies will hold their third and final practice of the week today from 3:15-5:15 p.m. at Romney Stadium. The majority of the practice, which is open to the public, will be a scrimmage.
“More than anything is some clean execution, especially for the ones,” said Wells, when asked what he wants to see from his team during the scrimmage. “On both sides, it should be really good competition. I want to see guys playing clean and executing on both sides.
“When you get to the guys that haven’t played a whole lot, who’s going to be able to step up in that kind of a situation? Who can tackle in space on defense? And then offensively, who can string plays along? That running back, can he play down after down after down? Those will be the things I’ll look for. It will also be good to evaluate the quarterbacks.”
Both Fackrell and Markosian are looking forward to the first scrimmage of the spring, and know what each side of the ball needs to bring.
“Just physical presence from the O-line, move the line of scrimmage, protect the passer and have some fun,” Markosian said. “We’ve been banging around with each other for the last week-and-a-half here, so it’s going to be good to get a full hit on, full scrimmage, and get after it.”
Added Fackrell: “To go live, it’s a different animal, but I’m excited. It’s been a while.”