LOGAN -- In his last three games, he threw for five touchdowns against just one interception. In his past two games, he averaged 334 passing yards and a 159.9 passer rating. He was the Utah State University athlete of the week on Nov. 4. He led the Aggies to their first back-to-back-to-back seasons of bowl eligibility in school history.
While USU has not granted media access to 19-year-old freshman Darell Garretson outside of game days, his coaches and a teammate are quite impressed.
Offensive coordinator Kevin McGiven is surprised by how much Garreston has digested. Head coach Matt Wells appreciates a particular aspect of Garretson's play. Proud of his mentorship role, Travis Van Leeuwen likes what he has seen from Garretson since he struggled against tougher opponents in BYU and Boise State.
McGiven said that he did not expect Garretson to understand the playbook so quickly given how little reps he received in fall camp, sitting behind star Chuckie Keeton and also junior Craig Harrison. Now, Garretson will walk into Romney Stadium Saturday with everything in the passing offense available to him in the playbook.
"He is such a fast learner. Between Coach Wells and myself, he can take hard coaching," said McGiven, who has coached conference-leading signal-callers like Ryan Williams, USU's Diondre Borel and (Weber State's) Cameron Higgins. "Going into this week, we haven't had discussion about what we think Darell can handle, but about attacking the defense."
McGiven compared Garreston's quick learning ability to that of Williams, a 4.0 student when he was a freshman at Memphis in 2010 before transferring to Miami (Fla.).
McGiven said USU benefitted from two byes over five weeks. He acknowledged the breaks came at a good time but believes that Garretson still would have had the entire passing aspect of the playbook opened to him. He may have not been as ready "from a cerebral standpoint," not mastering footwork and timing as well. But he still would have been at the same place "from a schematics standpoint," McGiven said.
McGiven said the staff was "still getting a feel of what (Garretson) can and can't do." "Going forward with Hawaii, we dug into the playbook" compared to the preceding New Mexico contest, McGiven said. Against the Lobos, the staff noticed how much better he improved on third downs, going 7-13 after a 3-15 evening against BSU.
When asked about general third-down performance against the Rebels, Wells pointed out Garretson for his performance in those very situations. USU has gone 28-49 in the past three games.
"That's a mark of a great quarterback," Wells said. "He's been very productive. It's not only his passing, but his elusiveness and ability to know exactly what the down and distance is."
Van Leeuwen said much of Garretson's success can be attributed to the leadership of himself and fellow senior receiver Travis Reynolds. With Garretson, Van Leeuwen has 14 receptions for 233 yards, while Reynolds has 21 receptions for 465 yards.
"We've helped install confidence in him," Van Leeuwen said. "We're being his ear, keeping him uplifted. I've never once seen him scared."
Garretson's father Rick is a longtime high school coach. He's related to two NBA referees, including his grandfather, Darrell.
Van Leeuwen is not convinced that Garretson is much better than Harrison, who replaced Keeton against BYU and started the BSU game before yielding to Garretson after guiding an offense Wells described as "dead."
"I don't think it has anything to do with either of the two," Van Leeuwen said. "You gotta put it this way: when Chuckie went down, we played two great opponents."
BYU is 7-3, having won six of its last seven contests. BSU is also 7-3, has won five of its past six games, only in USU's way atop the Mountain Division.
* COLORADO STATE: Wells recruited CSU quarterback Garrett Grayson when Wells was Louisville's quarterbacks coach in 2009. Grayson's offensive coordinator is Dave Baldwin, who held the same position at USU in 2011.
"(Grayson) is exactly what I thought he'd be four years ago," Wells said. "I'm sure coach Baldwin has him very schooled up in what they're doing."
Grayson has passed for 2,785 yards and 18 touchdowns in his junior year.
Wells described running back Kapril Bibbs as "the hottest back in the nation." The sophomore has gained 1,010 yards in the past five games, including 603 in the past two contests.
"He's playing better than any back in the country," Wells said. "He's has home run speed at the end. It will be a big challenge for not only the front seven, but the secondary as well."
The Aggies have allowed only six runs of 20 yards or longer this season, and no opposing team has run for 200-plus yards.
* GAME NOTES: Senior cornerback Nevin Lawson was named the Mountain West's defensive player of the week for the second time this season following his performance at UNLV, where he recorded two pass breakups and one interception. Lawson is one of seven Floridians, including four defensive backs, on the USU roster. ... Senior linebacker Jake Doughty was named the College Sports Madness Mountain West defensive player of the week for his 2.5 tackles for loss and sack against the Rebels. He was also nominated for the Burlsworth Trophy, which is given annually to the most outstanding senior football player in America who began his career as a walk-on. ... USU ranks among the top 30 teams in the nation in 20 different statistical categories. ... Saturday's game will be the annual USU Faculty and Staff Appreciation Day. Employees of Utah State can receive discounted game tickets for $11.