With the Aggie football season just two days away, anticipation and excitement are in full swing in Aggie Nation. Utah State welcomes the Thunderbirds of Southern Utah to Romney Stadium to kick off the 2012 season. But before another Aggie season is ushered in, let’s take a gander at five key questions heading into Thursday’s opener.
- How will the Aggies replace 2011’s star power and leadership?
Three NFL draft picks and a triple-digit season tackle machine from 2011’s Aggie squad have moved on to greener pastures. So the obvious questions are: “Who will replace their production and leadership? Will similar stars and veteran players step right in and pick up where Robert Turbin, Michael Smith, Bobby Wagner and Kyle Gallagher left off?”
This Aggie team is young, but very talented. On offense, Utah State lost 2,387 rushing yards from Smith and Turbin. The total production from those two alone was more than 89 of the 120 FBS schools’ total rushing offense from last season! Think about that for a second. That’s insane.
Thankfully, the Aggies return no slouch in senior Kerwynn Williams. Williams rushed for 542 yards on just 81 attempts last season, good for an impressive 6.7 yards per carry average. Kerwynn is now ready to handle the majority of the carries this year, and lightning-fast sophomore Joe Hill will spell him as the primary backup. Junior Robert Marshall brings experience and a bruising running style to off-set the smaller, quicker Williams and Hill. It’s unlikely the Aggies will match the production of 2011’s rushing game, but the Aggie run game should still be a force to be reckoned with considering the backfield talent and returning offensive line experience.
Defensively, the Aggies lost their two inside linebackers – Wagner and Gallagher – who accounted for 247 tackles and anchored the WAC’s top defense. Two experienced linebackers, junior Jake Doughty and sophomore Tavaris McMillian, will fill the now vacant spots in the heart of the Aggie defense. Wagner hasn’t shied away from emphasizing the bright future ahead of McMillian, and the Aggie coaching staff has been raving about Doughty’s progress and ability.
The other two linebacking spots will be occupied by senior Bojay Filimoeatu and up-and-coming redshirt freshman Kyler Fackrell. Overall, this year’s linebacking corps should be just as good as last year’s group, which is saying a lot.
As far as leadership goes, senior wide receiver Matt Austin is about as good a leader as they come – on the field and off the field. Filimoeatu also provides solid leadership for the defensive unit. These two, and all of the veteran players, should have no problem providing the leadership the Aggies need to be successful this season.
Only time will tell which players emerge into the spotlight, and it all starts Thursday night at 6:00 PM!