A lot of people chuckled last year when Utah State football coach Gary Andersen talked about the speed in his running back stable.
Robert Turbin, as we witnessed many times, has breakaway speed to go with his power. But even he had to admit, albeit reluctantly, that Michael Smith was faster than he was.
Andersen said there is fast (Turbin) and faster (Smith).
Now, Turbin is sidelined while recovering from an off-season ACL injury. And Smith is the leading candidate to start against Oklahoma when the season kicks off.
His speed will be a welcome weapon to use.
But Smith is not the only fast guy on the team.
“I am not even the fastest out there,” Smith said after the first spring practice on Tuesday. “We have a lot of 4.4 and 4.3 in the forty guys. That is a fast team when we put it all together. Everybody needs to look out.”
Off season conditioning has helped turn an already quick team into a roster filled with potential game changers.
“I believe our team is faster now. Our conditioning coach, Coach (Evan) Simon trained us very well in getting more speed,” Smith said. “He trained us a different way for things we can use on the field. We are quicker and more flexible on the field.”
It’s a difference Andersen said is all-important as he tries to upgrade the talent at USU in size and skill.
“Strength-wise there is always room for improvement. I think we are a faster team. I think we will play faster in the spring because of what we do know from a scheme standpoint. I think our athleticism should be able to take over even more on offense, defense and special teams,” Andersen said. “We did have a nice off-season. I thought Coach Simon in the weight room and his staff did a great job. We got stronger. We got bigger. We got faster. I don’t know if I have ever said we are strong enough and ready to go. That is not the case. We definitely made improvements from a year ago in athleticism, strength and speed.”
Of particular interest may be the upgrade in talent at wide receiver.
With Turbin out of action, USU may need to rely on the passing game more next season — an option the Aggies didn’t really have last year because the talent didn’t match the desired offensive schemes.
“Last year we played three backs a lot. I felt like the running back was a better corps overall than our wide receiver was,” Andersen said. “This year we have really improved our depth at the wide receiver position. We have much more speed and height. We have more bodies. We will see when the pads come on and we will see how we catch the football, but I don’t see using three backs as much, I see using the wide receivers.”