Utah State basketball coach Stew Morrill opened his teleconference with local writers by telling them two of his most-needed perimeter players (including a returning starter) were injured and would be out of action for a number of weeks.
But the absence of Pooh Williams (surgery to strengthen a pre-stress fracture of a foot)and Jaxon Myaer (surgery to repair a broken cheekbone) aren’t the end of the world. Make no mistake, the Aggies will miss William’s athleticism and defense on the wing, but he should be back on the floor by the time the season gets serious.
What it does is provide a chance for newcomers Tyrone White and Preston Medlin to impress Morrill and possibly earn a spot in the playing rotation — both were strong redshirt candidates until the injuries.
What we’re seeing is that Utah State is as deep as its been in years.
How deep? Tyler Newbold will likely assume the role Williams played last year while SLCC transfer Brian Green is the leading candidate to play the shooting guard position. Or, if the Aggies need to play a little bigger, Newbold plays the 2 and USU goes with a three-post lineup using a combination of Tai Wesley, Nate Bendall, Matt Formisano, Brady Jardine or Modou Niang.
Jardine, probably the most athletic player on the team, might actually be asked to redshirt this year after being forced into duty midway through last season — pure speculation on my part in trying to see how the minutes will be divided.
Why redshirt Jardine? To free up a few minutes for Niang, Formisano and Bendall — none of which have a redshirt season available — and allow the newlywed from Twin Falls a chance to further develop his skills to match his energy.
Wesley and senior point guard Jared Quayle are poised to have huge years for the Ags. Quayle was arguably the team’s most valuable player over the second half of the season even though center Gary Wilkinson won the conference MVP award.
Quayle should be as valuable as ever when the season begins and he’s firmly entrenched at the point instead of juggling shooting guard and backup point duties.
Wesley, though, might surprise a ton of people. WAC observers know he’s good, but because he has yet to be the focus of USU’s offense he’s being forgotten in many preseason lists of the conference’s top players. That would be a mistake.
With the exception of the Jaycee Carroll era — and even for a couple of years during it — Utah State has always employed a post-focused offense. Think Shawn Daniels, Desmond Pineger, Spencer Nelson, Nate Harris and Gary Wilkinson.
Wesley, just a junior, will fit nicely into that line of all-conference players.
So, while Williams and Myaer will be missed, they will not be irreplaceable.
Finishing the 2008-09 season with a 30-5 record, Utah State is poised to have similar results.
It won’t be easy, of course.
The WAC is filled with teams that, like USU, have three or more starters returning. Utah State has four starters back — and assuming those players are starters again this year, will have four starters returning again next season.