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After a dismissal and a positive COVID-19 test, Utah State turns to a former Utah prep star to try and right the ship

By Ryan Miller, KSL.com | Posted - Nov. 17, 2020 at 8:24 a.m.



LOGAN — If there is one thing Utah State interim coach Frank Maile knows about Cooper Legas, it's that the young man knows how to win.

In fact, it's rare the former Orem High standout quarterback loses — at anything. He's a two-time state champion quarterback who led the Tigers to back-to-back state titles in 2017 and 2018. He's a two-time state wrestling champion, claiming the top of the podium in both his junior and senior years. And he was a two-time javelin state champion while with the Tigers.

He wasn't just a three-sport athlete, he was a three-sport star.

"Cooper is a winner, man. He's a competitor," Maile said. "That's one of the main reasons why we recruited Cooper in the first place."

And now, Utah State will turn to him, a redshirt freshman, to try and turn the season around. Legas will start for the winless Aggies on Thursday against Wyoming.

The opportunity comes, like seemingly everything this season, amid a strange backdrop. Legas was the third-string quarterback entering the year and will get the chance to play in his first collegiate game after Jason Shelley was dismissed from the team Sunday and backup Andrew Peasley tested positive for the coronavirus.

Legas, as of now, is kind of the last man standing. But that doesn't mean the coaches aren't excited to see what Legas, who accounted for 5,400 yards his senior year at Orem High, can do. Sure, he might not have Puka Nacua to throw to anymore, but Deven Thompkins isn't a bad substitute.

"You can kind of fudge a little bit with football because it's a team sport, but when you're talking about wrestling and the mentality it takes to win a championship in wrestling, that's an individual sport where you call for no help and you can't turn to anybody, and so Cooper's a winner, at the end of the day," Maile said. "We're looking forward to his leadership and his competitiveness to lead the Aggies to a W."

While Legas hasn't played in a game since his senior year in high school, when he was named the 2018 Deseret News Class 4A MVP after going 237-of-340 for 4,338 yards and throwing for 48 touchdowns, his team has been around him for over a year now and has confidence in his abilities.

"Cooper is a smart kid — a younger kid, but he's definitely smart," Utah State receiver and return specialist Savon Scarver said. "That man works hard."

And he's got a pretty good arm, too. That's something Scarver noticed immediately when Legas arrived on campus.

"He has a real strong arm, and he can zip the ball, put it on the money every time," Scarver said. "We got him working hard in practice, he's watching film and he's gonna be ready to go for sure."

The change at quarterback is just the latest chapter of what has been a year filled with turmoil. Through just four games, the Aggies have had a change at head coach and lost their starting quarterback — and then there's that whole worldwide pandemic still posing a threat to each and every game.

"One day at a time," Maile said when asked how the Aggies were dealing with COVID-19. "When I wake up in the mornings after a test, I'm looking for test results and waiting for a trainer to tell me who can still play ball. And it's kind of a new normal right now, unfortunately, but, man, the kids have been relentless and resilient through this process and so I don't see anything changing."

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