LOGAN -- Coaches have been hushed about who will start at quarterback for Utah State today. But one player says Craig Harrison should lead the Aggies against Boise State.
Other players have expressed confidence in Harrison after being asked about USU's quarterback situation following injuries to signal-caller Chuckie Keeton.
Senior receiver Travis Reynolds said he had gathered other receivers on Tuesday to work with Harrison (6-foot-2, 203 pounds), a 24-year-old junior from Grantsville.
"We were out here with Craig, the new quarterback who is supposed to be starting," Reynolds said, "to make sure timing is right and crisp on game day."
USU coach Matt Wells previously said the other candidate is Darell Garretson (6-0, 200), a 19-year-old true freshman from Chandler, Ariz.
Kickoff between the Aggies and Broncos is at 6 p.m. at Romney Stadium.
Senior tight end D.J. Tialavea was asked what he expects from the quarterbacking unit going forward without Keeton. A member of the Heisman Trophy watch list, Keeton tore both his anterior cruciate ligament and medial collateral ligament in the first quarter against BYU on Oct. 4.
"Craig, with getting these extra reps in practice, he's going to be more prepared and confident," Tialavea said. "Our whole offense needs to wrap our arms around Craig and give him that confidence and let him be comfortable out there, because he needs to trust us. I want him to know that it's OK for him to put the team on his shoulders."
Harrison went 18 of 41 for 185 yards against BYU.
Offensive coordinator Kevin McGiven said that coaches would take through Thursday to evaluate Harrison and Garretson before letting them know who would start against BSU. The two were expected split reps in practice Monday through Thursday. Wells previously said the public wouldn't know until "game day" who would lead the Aggie offense onto the field.
Senior running back Joey DeMartino also expressed confidence in Harrison, saying that the Snow College transfer was "thrown in the fire" in last week's 31-14 loss to BYU who "can lead the team when number is called."
Reynolds said Harrison has been "overshadowed" by Keeton.
"What I see is motivation. He has poise," Reynolds said. "I see him as a leader."
As for Garretson?
"He's pretty athletic, actually," senior running back Joey DeMartino said. "He just needs to let the ball go and not hold it back."
Reynolds said that Garretson will one day be the "face of the program," referring to him as "another one" when asked about options other than Harrison.
"He surprised me," Reynolds said. "He has confidence up with Chuckie and Craig Harrison."
"Things don't rattle him for a young kid," McGiven added.
McGiven said Harrison has as much arm strength as Keeton, but with a slower release. Garretson is one of the most accurate young passers McGiven has seen in his 14-year coaching career.
McGiven said the starter would prove to most consistently let skill players at receiver and running back make plays, saying enough remained despite the loss last week of running back Joe Hill and Keeton.
"Coming out of spring ball, I would have told you the best players were Chuckie Keeton and Joe Hill," McGiven said.
Senior guard Kyle Whimpey's season also ended on Sept. 27 against San Jose State, and even DeMartino is dealing with a sprained ankle.
In order to "take some off their plate," expect Harrison or Garretson to carry the ball less than Keeton and focus more on direct handoffs to running backs, McGiven said. With Keeton, the Aggies often called for more plays in a read-option offense with more choices of handoffs and play-action calls.
"It doesn't mean Craig and Darrell can't do that as far as schemes go, but how much you run them is probably the biggest factor," McGiven said. "You take that load off by limiting decisions in the run game."
Reynolds said his out-of-practice drills with Harrison are one way he is seeking to step forward as a leader of the Aggie offense in the wake of Keeton's ailments.
"I just gotta take this challenge," Reynolds said. "I got to take my talent to another level and lead this offense. ... and do what I have always been doing: leading the receiver group by example."
USU did not permit Harrison or Garretson speak with the media.