Aggie Defense Highlights First Scrimmage of Spring Camp Thursday Afternoon
Junior running back Joe Hill had 41 rushing yards on 13 carries in Utah State's first spring scrimmage Thursday.

March 28, 2013

LOGAN, Utah -

Spring Scrimmage Highlights and Interviews

Scrimmage Stats Get Acrobat Reader

Utah State's defense provided most of the highlights during the team's first scrimmage of spring camp Thursday afternoon on Merlin Olsen Field inside Romney Stadium with three interceptions and five sacks as the team practiced for nearly two hours with an estimated 100 snaps of the football.

Aggie players with interceptions during the scrimmage included redshirt freshman linebacker Travis Parrish, sophomore linebacker Alex Marsaw and redshirt freshman cornerback Marquan Ellison. Defenders with sacks included senior defensive tackle Paul Piukala, junior cornerback Rashard Stewart, sophomore linebacker Kyler Fackrell, redshirt freshman linebacker Bridger Peck and freshman defensive tackle Ricky Ali'ifua.

Offensively, Utah State scored three touchdowns and added three field goals overall as junior quarterback Chuckie Keeton was 17-for-28 passing for 186 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions. Sophomore wide receiver Bruce Natson caught a team-best six passes for 69 yards, while junior running back Joe Hill had 13 rushes for 41 yards.

Utah State's offense scored its first touchdown of the day on its third series as it drove 60 yards in 11 plays and scored on a 4-yard pass from Keeton to sophomore wide receiver Brandon Swindall.

It's next scoring drive started at the offense's own one as it drove 92 yards in 14 plays, before stalling inside the 10 and settling for a 25-yard field goal from senior placekicker Josh Thompson.

The Aggie offense also produced two field goals and a touchdown during its red zone periods as junior placekicker Nick Diaz converted field goals from 35 and 22 yards, while junior quarterback Craig Harrison scored on a 1-yard run to cap a 5-play, 25-yard drive.

Utah State's final touchdown of the scrimmage was on a 33-yard pass from freshman quarterback Jordan Brown to senior wide receiver Dwayne Lorick.

Other defensive highlights included a fumble recovery by redshirt freshman cornerback Devin Centers, while Marsaw added six tackles to go along with his interception.

Utah State will continue its spring schedule next week, practicing on Monday and Wednesday from 6:15 to 8:15 a.m. and on Thursday from 3:15 to 5:15 p.m. All practices are open to the public, with morning practices scheduled for the Stan Laub Indoor Football Complex. Afternoon practices are scheduled for Merlin Olsen Field at Romney Stadium. All practice times and locations are subject to change.

Utah State will conclude spring drills on Saturday, April 20 at 2 p.m. with its annual Blue vs. White Spring Game, presented by Orbit Irrigation Products. Admission to the spring game is free.

Fans can follow the Aggie football program at Aggie fans can also follow the Utah State athletic program at or on facebook at Utah State University Athletics.

Utah State Football 2013 Spring Practice Dates
Mon., April 1 - 6:15 - 8:15 a.m.
Wed., April 3 - 6:15 - 8:15 a.m.
Thur., April 4 - 3:15 - 5:15 p.m.

Mon., April 8 - 6:15 - 8:15 a.m. Wed., April 10 - 6:15 - 8:15 a.m. Thur., April 11 - 3:15 - 5:15 p.m. - Scrimmage

Mon., April 15 - 6:15 - 8:15 a.m. Wed., April 17 - 6:15 - 8:15 a.m. - No Pads Saturday, April 20 -2 p.m. - Blue vs. White Spring Game


Opening thoughts on scrimmage:
"There were some drives that were a little bit longer than I anticipated. But even before I see the tape, I think there was a lot of give and take. There are a couple things that stand out to me. No. 1 is the offense taking the ball from the 1-yard line and going all the way down. They didn't finish, but on the flipside, we had some defensive linemen stand up. That's the mark of a great defense, when you make somebody kick field goals. It's not about the yards. It's points given up and points scored. They stoned the offense right out of the gate the first series of the red zone. There was good give and take. We moved the ball on offense, I just wish we could have finished some things down in the red zone with touchdowns instead of field goals."

On Joe Hill and Bruce Natson's play:
"I always say this to our guys during the week. Saturday's in the fall are only an accumulation of what you've done during the week and what you've done during camp. Here we are in spring ball, scrimmage No. 1 and practice No. 6, it's just a culmination of the first five practices. How you perform out here is usually how you perform in practice. That's my charge with a lot of those young kids who haven't done it consistently yet. You do it every single day, than when it's time to really do it, you'll do it well. Those two kids showed up again today."

On the turnovers:
"You've got to have running backs that hang on to the football. If you're going to lay it on the carpet, you'll watch the game right next to me on Saturday. You will not play in this program putting the ball on the ground. That's an emphasis of ours and will be a major emphasis this week."

On the backup quarterbacks:
"There's so much to that in rotating the guys while going back and forth between the twos. I'm sure they both played well at times, then there are throws they both wish they could have back."

On the play-calling from the sideline vs. the booth:
"A lot of that is team called already that we've done during the week, no different than we did last year. Today I took the majority of them and Kevin (McGiven) called a decent amount. We're going to continue to go back and forth until we get that right mix. We see eye-to-eye on everything, so it's pretty smooth on the offensive headset."

On evaluating the defense with his offensive background:
"It's not real hard. The ones that create havoc and show up are the ones that continue to play well. As far as the evaluation, it just takes longer. I'm watching the defensive tape from a different perspective. Now it's from an evaluation standpoint instead of from a schematic standpoint. It takes a little bit longer for me. I can't really say enough about what (defensive coordinator) Todd Orlando has done. Since he came in in February, it's been 100 miles an hour for him. We gave him keys to the building, a playbook and a car and he didn't need anything else. He's low maintenance and he's a football guy. He's a football junkie. He's bought-in and those kids have bought-in to what he does and what we're doing on defense. He's got a really good handle on them from an evaluation and schematic standpoint."

On special teams today:
"We used one of those sessions as a teaching period to do two things. One, we hadn't done a whole lot of punt returns from a team standpoint until today. So that was planned on purpose. It was also planned to slow down and give the big guys a break in there about two-thirds of the way through the day. And then we wanted to walk through some stuff. Dave (Unger) will head it all up, but I'm involved in every one of those teams and every meeting."

On today's scrimmage:
"Today's first scrimmage, it was pretty good from the offensive side of the ball, a lot of things we can clean up. One of them is definitely ball security. There is no way you win a game if you turn the ball over three or more times, much less two or anything like that. Holding on to the ball is probably the number one priority right now. Overall, we executed pretty well. We were in a backed up situation in what I think was a 15-play drive and that was one of the best one's of the day. At the same time, we have to be able to punch the ball in. If we are driving down 90-plus yards, you've got to find a way into the end zone one way or the other."

What did the defense do to make things tough at the end?
"They've gotten a lot better at disguising their coverage and blitzes. Even though I am checking at the line of scrimmage, trying to decipher who our offensive line is picking up, they are still doing a good job of bringing multiple guys and adjusting on the fly."

Can you evaluate the wide receivers at this point?
"So far they are solid. We definitely have to work on consistency as far as routes, coming off the ball and of course catching the ball. What I personally am looking for is yards after the catch. My job is to find the person who is open and eventually somebody is going to bust them. If you can do something after you catch the ball, then that is what we are really looking for. Travis (Reynolds) had one and Jo Jo (Bruce Natson) had one. Another thing is we have got to find the guy who is our number one go-to-guy. Last year it was Matt Austin and this year we definitely have to find who it is. We have some good candidates but nobody has really defined themselves completely."

Joe Hill seemed like a pretty good outlet out of the backfield?
"Joe's catching ability is kind of underrated because we see him as being the fastest guy on the team and all of that. His ball skills are very, very good. Another great thing is he can do something after he catches the ball. Of course he is fast, but he can make people miss whenever he needs to."

How did it feel to have a real live scrimmage in the spring?
"It was definitely exciting. It was one of those things that was love-hate, because you are going against your teammates and I am going against the guys in my locker corner. So, I'm probably waiting for them to talk some trash to me, but at the same time it's exciting to get out here and compete and have a little bit of bragging rights. We are definitely going to have a little bit of a chip on our shoulder this upcoming week because we have a lot of work to improve on. Hopefully we can come out and have a better scrimmage next week."

Is there much difference with this coaching staff compared to Coach (Gary) Andersen's regime?
"It is definitely the same feel overall, just different faces. That is all it is. It's a different experience. I know personally, coach (Matt) Wells and coach (Kevin) McGiven are two different people. What coach Wells had as a quarterback coach as far as excitement and intensity, coach McGiven comes back with a little bit more composure which is something I like because I kind of like being as calm as I can. He (Kevin McGiven) comes with a lot of knowledge. He is a very smart coach and he has definitely passed on a lot so far these first two weeks."

On the biggest change he has noticed with the new defensive coordinator Todd Orlando:
"I have never seen anyone with as much energy as coach Orlando. We'll be in the film room and he'll be 30 yards behind the line of scrimmage and you'll see him buzzing at the ball carrier trying to strip the ball. It' funny, but definitely energy is there. He has the same mentality as last year and I'm looking forward to competing this season with coach Orlando."

On his role on the team:
"Through my time here, I have been a guy who works hard, but I am not a vocal guy. I remember when I was a young guy always having vocal leadership and that was something I really appreciated. I'm trying to be that guy now. As a senior, it's my job to be more vocal and be an example. So, that is something I am trying to do."

What is the biggest thing the defense is trying to work on?
"Definitely just sticking to the technique when you get tired. This is our first scrimmage and usually the first scrimmage is the toughest. As time goes on I think we are going to refine our technique more and more. So when it's 3rd-and-eight we'll be able to get out to the quarterback instead of getting tired and heavy legs, which is how we felt today, but that will change."



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