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Weber State football: Barron out, quarterbacks competing ahead of UC Davis; Cooley leaving team

By Brett Hein - | Sep 21, 2021

BRIAN WOLFER, Special to the Standard-Examiner

Weber State quarterback Randall Johnson (9) reaches back to throw the football as James Madison defensive end Isaac Ukwu (0) rushes during a game Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021, at Stewart Stadium in Ogden.

Tuesday was a day for football roster news at Weber State, as the depth chart ahead of the UC Davis game did not list Bronson Barron at quarterback and junior receiver Devon Cooley announced he is leaving the program.

Here are some early notes from Tuesday’s media availability as the No. 14 Wildcats prepare to host the No. 12 Aggies on Saturday.

LATEST AT QB

While he was still listed as the starter last week, this week’s depth chart did not list freshman Barron, the usual starter, at all after his knee injury two weeks ago at Dixie State.

Junior Randall Johnson is listed as the starter, with sophomore Kylan Weisser as the backup — though, the way it sounds, it may not be that cut and dry. Junior receiver Ty MacPherson said the two are rotating reps with starters and backups.

“Obviously, we didn’t have the outcome we wanted this previous week with two quarterbacks, but those two right now are just competing every single day,” MacPherson said. “Today we had a great day of practice. Both quarterbacks looked really sharp.”

Head coach Jay Hill said the reality of Barron’s injury is such that it’s not realistic to expect him to be available this week.

“I would say, hopefully, we get him practicing here soon and back up to full speed,” Hill said. “So we’re looking at Randall Johnson and Kylan Weisser. We need one of those guys to play great.”

Hill spoke at length about a score of missed offensive opportunities in the team’s 37-24 loss to James Madison, and reiterated that Johnson’s two turnovers (one fumble returned for a touchdown, and one interception near the goal line) were key in deciding at halftime to replace him with Weisser.

“I thought we missed some throws that were wide open and could’ve been game-changers early. Even after the fumble that got returned and we went down 17-3, there was stuff there that I thought the plays were the right things and the right time, and we just didn’t take advantage of some of the stuff that was there,” Hill said.

“I could think of two touchdowns where a guy is running wide open and we’ve just got to get it to him. Those hurt bad,” Hill continued. “There are a lot of things we could do better offensively, just executing and hitting on some of the plays that were there to be made.

“But again, 19 first downs against James Madison is good. Where we didn’t outperform James Madison was, they scored one more touchdown in the red zone than we did, and then the 2-0 turnover margin was huge. That was everything in that game.”

Hill also confirmed that coaches picked up on shotgun snap issues when watching game film, which is something fixable that can help the offense improve.

INJURIES

With starting senior right guard Ty Whitworth still sidelined, sophomore Trevor Szilagyi got another start before going down early against JMU. Noah Atagi moved to right guard so sophomore George Barrera could play left tackle, then Barrera banged up one of his legs.

So Atagi moved back to tackle and sophomore Jordan Lutui, a converted defensive lineman, came in for his first game snaps at offensive line, and junior Creston Cooledge also got plenty of reps.

“That’s college football. It’s not something you whine about, that’s just the reality of someone’s got to be ready to step up in a crazy situation — and that’s about a crazy of one on the O-line as I’ve ever seen,” Hill said.

From the sounds of it, most of those players, hopefully including Whitworth, will play against UC Davis.

“We expect those guys back, so that’s a key deal. We expect those guys back and we’ll be much healthier on the O-line this week,” Hill said.

COOLEY LEAVING

BEN DORGER, Standard-Examiner Weber State receiver Devon Cooley (3) attempts to catch a pass during Saturday’s game against the Idaho State Bengals on Nov. 23, 2019, at Stewart Stadium.

Devon Cooley, the junior receiver who led Weber State with 733 yards on 59 receptions in 2019, posted on social media Tuesday that he is leaving the team and entering the transfer portal.

Cooley has caught one pass since and played just a handful of snaps over the team’s nine games since the start of the spring season.

“With a heavy heart, on a somber day,” Cooley wrote, “I write to the Wildcat Family and friends to say goodbye. My time here has been an amazing experience of hard work and dedication to the football program that was (led) by the most inspiring faculty, professors, coaches and forever great teammates! Thank you Wildcat Nation, with a grateful heart. This helped me understand what’s best for me, and will be entering the transfer portal to view potential opportunities.”

Both Hill and receivers coach Jared Ursua were positive and optimistic about Cooley’s work ethic and outlook during fall camp, expecting him to be a contributor this season. But he did not play at Utah and, the following week, Hill said Cooley would not be playing at all this season.

WSU has not offered much information about Cooley’s situation or what changed between camp and the start of the season.

“He feels like that’s what’s best for him and we wish him good luck moving forward. That’s all there really is to it,” Hill said Tuesday.

TURNING TO UC DAVIS

Hill said Monday’s practice was a bit of a downer after the rough home loss to JMU, but that Tuesday’s was a “fabulous practice” and that it helps to move on when opening Big Sky play against a good team.

“We have all the respect in the world for UC Davis, always have. Coach (Dan) Hawkins does a fabulous job with the offense and the defense down there,” Hill said. “They’re very well-coached, they’re tough, they’ve always had our full focus and attention anytime we play these guys. They’re a really good football team.”

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