Meet The Aggies #4 (Smith and Wilson)

Aug. 22, 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.

Cade Smith 6-4, 232, Sr., LB, Lancaster, Calif. (Antelope Valley HS/Idaho)

On the cover of the Utah State football media guide are three photos and all three photos are of Aggie senior linebackers. Mentioned in the guide is the fact that the linebacking corp should be the best unit on the team, probably in the league and could be considered one of the top linebacking groups in the country as well.

The problem is that USU features returning starters Blake Eagal, Tony Newson (who will now redshirt the season due to complications with his shoulder) and Brent Passey, and while all three have earned all-Big West recognition in the past, one senior linebacker is being left out.

Fairly quiet in his first two years at Utah State has been senior Cade Smith, who will assume a starting role when the Aggies open the season at Texas Tech on Sept. 2.

Smith, the younger brother of Aggie defensive line standout Caleb Smith, who graduated last year, made four tackles in 1998 and then in more extensive playing time behind the already mentioned trio, made 50 stops last season.

Smith started his career with a redshirt year at Idaho in 1996 and came to USU for the 1998 season. His spotty playing time has also been limited by concussions during his career.

"I am just happy to play finally," Smith said when asked his thoughts of being a starter. "Even though Tony and I weren't going to play the same position in this new defense, it is good that I earned the starting (middle linebacker) job, so I feel good about that."

And while he is glad to be stepping on the field for what should be extensive playing time, he will do so without his brother Caleb. The two have played all but two years together during their high school and college careers.

"It is going to be weird not seeing him out there, talking to him and yelling at him to get the ball carrier, but it will still be fun," Smith said.

Now it will be Caleb's turn to stand on the side and cheer his brother.

Rodney Wilson 6-2, 200, Fr., LB, Pensacola, Fla. (Woodham HS)

A new opportunity after several doors closed helped bring freshman linebacker Rodney Wilson from Pensacola, Fla. to Logan, Utah. Coming from a talent-laden state, Wilson proved he could play with the big boys by recording 109 tackles and earning third-team all-state honors his senior year of high school.

"I had the Floridas and Florida States (recruiting me), but my grades weren't quite tight," Wilson said. "The coaches here stuck with me all of the way and now I am here and I have got my stuff together."

Wilson also liked the chances of being able to compete right away.

"I saw it as a new coaching staff, a new opportunity and a start to a new era," Wilson said. "With new coaches and me being a new player it gave me a chance to start fresh. They have given everybody a fair opportunity and even though they had all the linebackers back, they wanted us to come out and compete. They were not saying that we were going to take anybody's job, but to get the linebackers ready to play."

And as expected, anyone coming to Utah from Florida has to adjust to more than just the level of football.

"I came out here early and stayed with Tony Newson," Wilson said of making the adjustment from living at home to being two time zones away this summer. "He has been like a big brother and he is helping me get through a lot of things. So are the other linebackers. As long as I get to keep in touch with my folks (I'll be o.k.). I knew it would be a big step. I knew when I got onto the plane that I had to be a grown man. You are kind of on your own right now."

Another adjustment Wilson is making is to the attitude of Logan and trying to physically perform in two-a-days when it is difficult to breathe.

"It was real hard for me at first, but coach Gris (USU strength and conditioning coach Shawn Griswold) and all of the other strength coaches got me out here early and trained me and got my lungs ready for it," Wilson said. "I am not going to say it was easy because it was real hard, but now I am ready to go."

When asked if it was harder to breathe in the thin air as compared to the thick humidity of Florida, Wilson said Utah leaves him gasping for air.

"Most definitely," Wilson said. "A lot of players said that when they went to Georgia last year it was harder for them, but I don't see how. It is most definitely harder to breathe up here."

Still Wilson is excited about football and about being here.

"I love this sport," he said. "I have to love it to come all the way out to Utah. There are so many things I love about football, that I just couldn't explain it all."



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