Meet The Aggies #3 (Benza and Fernandez)

Aug. 21, 2000

Meet The Aggies

Note: The USU athletic media relations office will feature a newcomer and a veteran football player each day on the web site leading into the season opener against Texas Tech.

Brian Benza QB, 6-2, 205, Sr., Carpinteria, Calif. (Carpinteria HS)

A versatile athlete, Brian Benza could play quarterback, punter, deep snapper and maybe even wide receiver or defensive back. The physically talented senior will however see time at quarterback and with the improvement he has shown early this fall, could see significant time at that position in 2000.

Benza made a big jump in fall workouts with his performance in USU's scrimmage on Saturday, August 19. Benza completed three-of-five passes for 54 yards and led USU on its only two scoring drives in the limited scrimmage.

According to observers, Benza's summer workouts helped raise his status heading into the 2000 season.

"I moved in with some different people, Aaron Jones, Nick Onaindia and Brent Passey and they brought me along and I worked out hard with them all summer," Benza said. "I went in every day and they pushed me to get better."

Benza has a good attitude heading into the year after missing all of 1998 and most of 1999 with injuries. As a freshman in 1997 he was nine-of-18 passing for 166 yards and almost led USU to an upset win at BYU after coming in cold in the fourth quarter.

"It has been difficult," Benza said of his limited playing time. "I played my freshman year and I have been sitting for two years and I don't know if I have lost anything since I haven't played. Hopefully I can stay healthy and get some playing time."

Benza has also had to go through three offensive systems in his five years at USU.

"It is a part of football I guess," Benza said. "You learn it, but you wish you had the same coach all five years so that you could just get better at one offense. It hasn't really been that difficult picking up the systems though."

Roger Fernandez WR, 5-10, 270, Fr., Apple Valley, Calif. (Apple Valley HS)

Following in the footsteps of some former Apple Valley, Calif. football players, who continued their playing careers at Utah State is freshman Roger Fernandez. However, Mike Lindsay and Vashon Garmon's success at Utah State had no bearing on Fernandez' decision to come to Logan.

"I liked the area," Fernandez explained. "I was really impressed by Coach Dennehy and his staff. They really know what they are doing. I felt like it was a great opportunity to play for a great staff and I had to take advantage of that.

The school is a great place to be," he said. "I come from the desert and I like the green here, but it was the coaching staff."

Fernandez is one of several freshmen that have drawn the coaches' attention early this fall. Recruited as a running back after rushing for 1,300 yards in just seven games his senior year, he may see playing time this season as a wide receiver, just to get him into the games.

"They have moved me out to wide receiver because they want me on the field this year," Fernandez said. "I have never played wide receiver, so you are looking at the offense in a different perspective. I am excited. They say they want me to play, but I have to learn the offense."

Learning a new offense, let alone from a new position is difficult, but so is keeping up the pace set by the Aggie coaches.

"Practice is hard," Fernandez said. "It is nothing like high school. We never had two-a-days, but it is a lot more productive than high school. You are in different places at all times. There is no standing around like there is in high school. You are always working here."

Fernandez' hard work could earn him playing time as a true freshmen. Asked to describe his style of play he said, "I am fast and elusive. I am not the biggest guy, but I can make a living being fast and elusive and I work hard."



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