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Utah State football notebook — Aggie receivers brimming with potential

Published April 4, 2014 9:15 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Logan • Junior wideout Brandon Swindall has been making a steady push this spring to become the team's top receiving threat. That push continued Friday with his five-catch, 118-yard day, including a 40-yard touchdown catch in which he got behind the defense and simply didn't let them catch him.

Coach Matt Wells said that's the kind of play he's expecting more and more often from the Oklahoma native.

"He's played a lot the last two years and it's time for him to be that guy," Wells said. "We talked to him a lot the past couple days about just playing at a high level, very consistently."

That's a bar the coaching staff is setting for the entire receiving corps, a very experienced and deep unit. Swindall is making a move to be one of the stars of the unit, but Jojo Natson has been a consistent short and midrange threat, while Ronald Butler has flashed potential as well.

Even down the depth chart, spring has revealed promising things from the receivers: Alex Wheat and Braelon Roberts have used their size to make tough catches most of the spring. On Friday, it was Brock Bird and Damoun Patterson making plays on third-string offense.

There's a feeling in Logan that the unit could be one of the best in the conference - if players continue to develop.

"I think our whole wideout group has the potential to be really good," Wells said. "Those three [Swindall, Butler, Natson] along with Shaan Johnson some young kids and the two junior college kids coming in, I think we're going to be OK at receiver."

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Wells impressed with guards, looking for consistency at center

With the ball flying around, some of the shifts on offensive line can go unnoticed. But Utah State was trying something a little different on Friday, giving Taani Fisilau a few reps at center to try him out there.

Fisilau and Bill Vavau have impressed the coaching staff so far, Wells said. The guards and left tackle Kevin Whimpey have been arguably the most consistent pieces this spring.

Center is a position that hasn't yet been established, Wells said in so many words.

"The centers - Joe [Summers] and Austin [Stephens] - have had their moments of looking like college centers and sometimes they look like junior high centers, and they go back and forth," he said. "I'm really proud of the two guards: Taani and Bill Vavau continue to make good strides. ... I'm happy with those guys, we're going to be OK up front."

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Defense wants more turnovers

To stay healthy, the Utah State defense wants four a day.

Not apples. Not glasses of water. Turnovers.

Senior safety Frankie Sutera said as much after the scrimmage. The Aggies defense, which had 17 interceptions last year, wants to show more of its ability to turn the ball over. While Chase Christiansen had a fumble recovery on an apparent botched snap, Sutera lamented that the defense hadn't found more ways to get their mitts on the ball.

"We didn't have any picks, which was disappointing," he said. "We need to improve on that. Our goal is four turnovers a day, so we didn't meet that one."

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Young linebackers 'are all going to play'

Three players who haven't yet played a true down of college football have been putting their names out there this spring: Christiansen, Ian Togiai and Alex Huerta.

Huerta redshirted last fall, but was named the team's defensive scout player of the year at the banquet this week. Togiai and Christiansen are early enrollees. Yet after the scrimmage, Wells was fairly adamant that all three would see the field in some capacity in the fall. While many of the starting linebacker roles are already defined, their effort on the field is begging for some reps.

"Those three young guys are all going to play," Wells said. "We'll see if that's in an expanded role or a legitimate role through the summer and come training camp. My little saying is that if you're going to bite when you're a puppy, you're going to bite when you're a big dog. They're not real strong yet and they don't know the whole defense yet, but they bite."

Kyle Goonkgoon@sltrib.comTwitter: @kylegoon