News abounds at Aggies' Blue-White scrimmage

Apr 28 2012 - 10:43pm

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LOGAN -- Adam Kennedy looked left, squared his footing in the pocket and fired down the opposite sideline of Merlin Olsen Field. The ball dived short of his intended target, senior Chuck Jacobs. It was a sampling of the USU offense's struggles to find a flow in the second half of Saturday's Blue-White scrimmage.

Kennedy's errant throw marked an aberration, however, to what USU coach Gary Andersen called an "unbelievable" day for the Aggie football program and the general athletics department.

Before the game, USU athletics director Scott Barnes led a conference where several new athletics logos were unveiled, including a new "U-state" look, an abstract Aggie bull cartoon and sharp lettering, with the familiar navy blue, white and gray coloring. During the game, former USU running back Michael Smith was selected by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the seventh round of the NFL Draft, joining Bobby Wagner and Robert Turbin (each chosen by Seattle) as the third 2011 Aggie football player chosen this weekend.

If Romney Stadium wasn't already abuzz with the deluge of news, Barnes also caused a stir when he announced that the department would make an announcement regarding alignment with the Mountain West Conference within "weeks."

When eyes were actually focused on the game, it was on the ongoing quarterback duel between sophomore Chuckie Keeton and Kennedy, the two starting signal-callers of last season's Famous Idaho Potato Bowl season. Keeton finished 16 of 25 for 187 yards and two touchdowns, while Kennedy went 16 of 22 for 143 yards, with one touchdown and an interception. Their play Saturday culminated into an essential stalemate, Andersen said, that will push the battle through the summer, as it did last season before Keeton won the job.

"We'll go into camp and see where it sits," said Andersen, who noted that the approximately 5,000 fans who attended the scrimmage "by far" comprised the largest attendance of the four USU spring games Andersen has coached. "It is what it was -- head-to-head -- when we walked into the Auburn game (last season's season-opener, a 42-38 defeat)."

Kennedy said the two have "one-upped" each other on various days throughout the three-week camp. That hasn't kept the players from being close, Keeton said. "We are probably going to hang out tonight," Keeton said. "Whoever gets the starting job is going to do a tremendous job."

Secondary on Keeton's excitement scale to the battle for the reins of the offense was the new logo and three new uniforms.

"Everybody had heard about the new logo, so we figured we had to get new uniforms," he said.

"It is just amazing to see how Utah State is changing, and it's only been my freshman year, so I have three more years of things to come."

The team will be able to choose between white, navy blue and alternate gray jerseys to combine with white and blue helmets that feature the new "U-state" logo on the side.

The looks were displayed in the conference by USU stars Kerwynn Williams, Tyler Larsen and Bojay Filimoeatu, three of the 24 student-athletes who represented the eight sports that will be given new uniforms.

Nike president Charlie Denson, a USU alum and former football player, said that the uniforms are 58 percent lighter than each team's previous apparel. It is an added benefit for the football team, which now joins other Nike clients -- none of which are currently found in the WAC or Mountain West, Barnes said -- as being a Pro-Combat Nike-outfitted team, a distinction Andersen said is helpful in recruiting.

Only Georgia, Oregon and Boise State could claim the outfit last season.

"Our wardrobe has definitely doubled or tripled from what we've had in the past," Andersen said. "It will be fun for the kids to be able to decide what to wear. To have three kids drafted from a program matters. At the end of the day it's about recruiting. Players make plays, players win games. I'll never stop saying that, but these things help a great deal. Many thanks to Nike and to Scott Barnes for getting that done and putting us in that direction. It sets us apart from a lot of teams in the country."

Barnes disclosed a coming announcement regarding the MWC after he showed an aerial view of a new-look Dee Glen Smith Spectrum basketball court during the conference.

"We hope to get that conference logo changed soon," Barnes said, in reference to the WAC logo found within each key of the court. Several minutes passed by before anyone in the packed Stan Laub complex conference room addressed Barnes' statement.

When the floor was opened for questions, however, a fan asked Barnes to explain his statement. "On the question of conference alignment, we continue to make progress," Barnes responded. "This answer is not months away; it's weeks away." Barnes clarified his statement after the scrimmage, saying that an announcement on the matter depends on the Mountain West's decision whether or not to invite the university.

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