Competitive QB battle among works in progress for USU spring football | Sports

LOGAN — Two-and-a-half weeks into spring ball and Utah State is in pretty much the same position any Aggie team has been after just 18 days on the job.

It’s a work in progress.

“We’re so far away from, in terms of execution, what we want to be. Especially defensively,” USU head coach Blake Anderson said after Saturday’s first spring scrimmage for the team. “But compared to Friday to today, you can see they were just a little bit more prepared, a little bit more energy over there. Tackled better.

“I like the fact that each time we go out we get a little bit more competitive. Make a few less mistakes and make a few more big plays.”

A new defensive coordinator, plus new starters all across the defense, newcomers to the offensive line and wide receiver positions, and a quarterback competition to boot has given Anderson a long checklist of things that need to get done this spring.

Thankfully, this isn’t last spring where the team would have been even further behind after a brutal amount of attrition due to graduation and the transfer portal (although the Aggies aren’t out of the woods in that regard with the portal set to open again on April 15).

The quarterback battle began the moment Utah State added two Division I transfers at the position, the veteran Iowa QB Spencer Petras and the underdog Utah signal-caller Bryson Barnes. When practice opened, incumbent Cooper Legas, who served as starter for most of last season (albeit with a rocky path to retaining that job) took first-team snaps with Petras, Barnes and returning sophomore McCae Hillstead trailing him.

Now, that hierarchy is both more clear and more murky. Hillstead and Barnes have been relegated to the third and fourth string spots but Legas doesn’t have as firm a grasp on the starting job as he did at the start of camp. Petras now shares an equal amount of first team snaps according to Anderson.

“Cooper and Spencer are getting equal reps with the ones and twos to try and be as fair to that process as possible,” Anderson said. “Right now, want to see how the offense responds with either out there. Who’s got the best understanding of what we’re going.”

Petras appears to be adjusting well to a new offensive system. In six years spent working within the Iowa offense — somewhat infamous for its lack of explosiveness (and even impotence in recent seasons) — it hadn’t given the California native much room to flourish. Nor have the injuries that have played a part in why Petras is still in the collegiate ranks for year seven. Petras missed all his final year with the Hawkeyes in 2023 due to an injury that also shortened his 2022 campaign.

“It’s been a blast,” Petras said. “It’s been a lot of fun. Just doing something new. Learning something new and feeling like a freshman again in a lot of ways because I’m an old man at this point. It’s great being in a system for that long because you know it inside and out. But it’s fun to learn new things and be able to throw new throws and all that stuff.”

Petras led all passers statistically in the first spring scrimmage, held Saturday inside the indoor practice facility due to poor whether. He threw for 295 yards on 26 of 34 passing. He also had two touchdowns despite the offense running very few red zone reps, thus limiting touchdowns for most players. Legas also complete north of 70 percent of his passes, going 16 of 22 for 115 yards.

Passing all-around went incredibly well for the Aggies, with all QBs combining to complete 72 percent of passes (led by Petras’ 76 percent) and averaging a combined 7.2 yards per attempt. It won’t come as a surprise to know the wide receivers also produced at a good rate in the scrimmage. Jalen Royals, the First Team All-Mountain West receiver, didn’t play much (mainly as a load management emphasis) but still reeled in six catches for 50 yards. The leader on the day was Otto Tia whose 11 catches for 130 yards were both most on the team for the day. Tia also grabbed one of the two TDs. Grant Page also crossed the century mark in receiving yards with 105 on seven catches.

The Aggies’ run game also had an efficient day, gaining 195 yards on 36 attempts, or 5.4 yards per rush. Davon Booth led the way with 75 yards on 11 carries.

With all the offensive prowess on display, the defense showed its room for improvement but not incompetence. They did get a decent three sacks and six tackles for loss and also recovered a pair of fumbles along with a handful of pass breakups.

Anderson did say after the scrimmage that he “felt like the defensive energy was a little better today than it was last week. So that’s a step in the right direction.” He also pointed out that it’d be asking a lot for the defense to be further along that it’s already come.

They key for the defense right now lies not in beating down an offense with far more returning talent and system continuity. Most of the turnover from last year’s team is on the defense and several key transfers are on that side as well. There’s also been injuries to several players anticipated to play starting or rotation roles — Max Alford, Avante Dickerson and Marlin Dean — that are holding back the whole unit slightly but that have the sliver lining of giving up-and-comers more development snaps.

Throw in having a new DC, Nate Dreiling, and there’s a lot the team has to work through and get done. Some of it isn’t pretty, but that’s the nature of the beast in spring ball.

“The cool thing I think is seeing them from when they put a call in — it’s clear they put it in that day cause it’s the first time they ran it — seeing them be able to improve day-to-day on that specific defense,” Petras said. “And to me that’s the mark of a defense that has the potential to be good.”

Stat Leaders in first USU Spring Scrimmage


  • Spencer Petras: 26 of 34 | 295 yards | 2 TD
  • Cooper Legas: 16 of 22 | 115 yards
  • Bryson Barnes: 7 of 10 | 95 yads
  • McCae Hillstead: 6 of 10 | 45 yards


  • Davon Booth: 11 rush | 75 yards
  • Robert Briggs Jr.: 11 rush | 50 yards
  • Corbin Cottle: 6 rush | 45 yards
  • Rahsul Faison: 8 rush | 25 yards


  • Otto Tia: 11 rec | 130 yards | 1 TD
  • Grant Page: 7 rec | 105 yards
  • Josh Sterzer: 4 rec | 75 yards | 1 TD
  • Jalen Royals: 6 rec | 50 yards
  • Kyrese Rowan: 4 rec | 50 yards
  • Colby Bowman: 5 rec | 30 yards


  • Jadon Pearson: 9 tackles
  • JD Drew: 7 tackles
  • Davon Graham II: 6 tackles
  • Omari Okeke: 6 tackles
  • Al Ashford: 6 tackles
  • Bronson Olevao Jr.: 5 tackls | 2.0 sacks | 3.0 TFL
  • Shaun Dolac: 5 tackles
  • Noah Flores: 5 tackles

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