<em>This is the fourth in a series previewing the 2017 Utah State football team’s position groups. The others can be found at the following links: <a href=”http://www.cachevalleydaily.com/sports/article_30eb12c6-8786-11e7-aa63-0f091dd2d683.html” target=”_blank”>Offensive line</a>, <a href=”http://www.cachevalleydaily.com/sports/article_9393f23a-884e-11e7-857a-c7dae436ad41.html” target=”_blank”>Defensive backs</a>, <a href=”http://www.cachevalleydaily.com/sports/article_644a94d2-8913-11e7-9a22-9fcb1ade0158.html” target=”_blank”>Quarterbacks.</a></em>
LOGAN – Seven returners with experience from a year ago and a handful of newcomers make up Utah State’s group of receivers, but Aggie fans should expect to see something a little different from the ball-catchers this year. Multiple coaches and players have said there will be more downfield passes.
Wide receiver coach Jovon Bouknight said the change was made for a combination of reasons: new offensive coordinator David Yost and the weapons USU has at the receiver position.
“In the normal offensive setting you have your progression reads and routes, and the quarterback goes through a pecking order,” he said. “This one is more set up and designed to read the deep routes first. It’s a little backwards to most offensive schemes, but that is the nature of this offense. It’s designed to go a little bit deeper, but also it complements what we have.”
He was just a sophomore, but Ron’quavion Tarver led last season’s group with 46 catches and 604 yards. He is one of those deep-threat guys that complement the new offensive scheme.
“With guys like Tarver, guys that can make those deep, down-the-field-catches, the shoe fits,” Bouknight said.
The most improved receiver during the offseason, according to both offensive coordinator David Yost and head coach Matt Wells, is senior Jaren Colston-Green, who caught eight passes for 230 yards and two touchdowns in 2016. Bouknight said Colston-Green came out focused and was able to surprise “a lot of people” in the spring. He described Colston-Green as a deep threat-type player with great hands.
“He was another guy that came on late for me, in the middle of the year, last year,” Bouknight said. “I think I started him in the middle of the season. He is just as talented as anyone in that room once he puts his mind to it.”
There are two other senior wide receivers in addition to Colston-Green: Braelon Roberts and Alex Byers. Roberts, who has played in more games than any other receiver at USU, has caught 32 passes for 325 yard in his Aggie career. Byers caught two passes for 49 yards last year, his first at USU.
Someone who could see some significant playing time, including some as a punt returner, is redshirt freshman Jordan Nathan. Bouknight said Nathan quickly caught his attention at a minicamp in California.
“He was making big time plays out there,” Bouknight said. “He had speed and quickness and really good hands.”
The 5-foot-9, 175 pound receiver has already made an impression on fans during practices. Bouknight said he wanted to use Nathan’s talents a year ago, but decided a redshirt year would be beneficial. Now he is expected to fill a hole left by the departure of Rayshad Lewis.
The three other returning wide receivers include junior Zach Van Leeuwen, and sophomores Gerold Bright and Chad Artist. Van Leeuwen is the most experienced of the three, catching 14 passes for 131 yards in his two seasons at USU. Bright had five catches for 56 yards last year, but was utilized rushing the ball as well, where he totaled 87 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries. Artist, a Logan High grad, only had one grab during his freshman season, but is known for the ability to stretch the field with his speed.
Snow College transfer Connor McGuire didn’t see any action during his junior year, but proved he could rack up receiving yards during his time at Snow College. Savon Scarver, Taylor Compton, Preston Curtis and Dylan Spradling are all newcomers on the team.