Expectations high as Aggies start fall camp

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LOGAN -- In past years, excitement hasn't been a word used to describe the start of another football season at Utah State. But as year two of the Gary Anderson era in Logan begins, things have changed.

"I like the energy. I like the excitement level," Anderson said following day one of fall camp.

"I feel like we are a better team mentally and physically," senior quarterback Diondre Borel said.

The Aggies return 20 starters and seem to have a confidence this season that has been lacking in the past.

"I think this is a close group, probably the closest team that I have been a part of," said junior linebacker Bobby Wagner. "I think we are going to do a lot of damage this year because we are a close group and we believe in each other."

While the Aggies enter camp with excitement and optimism, they do face a big challenge: They enter the season without last year's leading rusher and receiver.

Running back Robert Turbin suffered a torn ACL last winter and will likely miss the entire 2010-11 season.

Wide receiver Stanley Morrison broke his foot and will also sit the season out.

"It's a big loss," Borel said. "Those two guys had a lot of big plays last year, but we have guys that can step up and do the same things."

Anderson is confident that he has enough depth at the running back position to remain productive on the ground. Seniors Dervin Spieght and Michael Smith, along with sophomore Kerwynn Williams, will need to step and make plays.

"I feel very good about our running back position," Anderson said. "Like I always say when I'm asked this question: I feel for Robert. He's a tremendous player. He'll be out here and still be on our leadership committee this year, and he will still be at practice every single day. We have four backs that we that we figure will be quality backs. We'll see when we get the pads on."

Morrison will be tough to replace. Junior college transfer Matt Austin is a candidate to fill that role, and Anderson eagerly awaits someone to become that go-to guy.

"The injury to Stanley, someone needs to make plays at the wide receiver position," Anderson said. "That is a big question mark in camp: What receiver is going to come in and make plays that Stanley was capable of making for us? Because we have not seen that yet; but we're only one practice into it."

The injuries have done nothing to quiet expectations for this team. Even after the injuries, the WAC coaches picked the Aggies to finish fourth in conference.

"Expectation is high from all of you (media), and from us," Wagner said, "probably higher from us, just because we are trying to get to a bowl game. So, I think we are ready for this year."

Anderson is only worried about his own expectations for this team: simply that they improve each day before the season opener.

"The only goal we have right now is to get better at the issues that cost us winning games last year. That's where we sit as a football team," Anderson said. "I would hope that expectations would grow as we continue to develop this program. Right now, we're a football team that has an awful lot to prove, that hasn't done much yet. So, we're excited to keep working."

The Aggies open the season on the road against No. 8 Oklahoma on Saturday, Sept. 4 at 5 p.m. (MT)

E-mail: jjensen@ksl.com

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