Jordan Love opened the small plastic package and sampled some of the candy bearing his name.
Like any good salesman, he called the sweet stuff probably the best he’s ever had.
Utah State is trying to sell Love, its junior quarterback and the preseason choice by the media as the Mountain West offensive player of the year, as a Heisman Trophy candidate. It’s a long-shot candidacy for someone who doesn’t star at a Power Five school, but there is little question the attention in this conference is on Love.
The candy that says “VOTE LOVE” on one side and “HEISMAN” on the other shows that neither he nor Utah State is willing to back down from those expectations.
“It’s different having the spotlight on you,” Love said Wednesday at conference football media days at Green Valley Ranch Resort. “I try not to look too much into that. My teammates, I tell them it’s not a big deal. I’m here for them and we’re going to do big things, so I’m excited to get out there and compete with them.
“It’s all about how you can focus and concentrate. You’ve got to put different things to the side and know the main goal is the team and winning the Mountain West championship. If you have that in your mind, it’s easy to stay focused on what you need to be doing.”
Love (6 feet 4 inches, 225 pounds) had a breakout season last year, completing 64 percent of his passes for 3,567 yards and 32 touchdowns with six interceptions. That earned him second-team all-conference behind Boise State quarterback Brett Rypien, the league’s Offensive Player of the Year.
With Rypien gone, the opportunity is there for Love to be the top quarterback in the Mountain West.
But Love faces the challenge of being one of only two offensive starters back from last season’s team that went 11-2 and blew out North Texas 52-13 in the New Mexico Bowl. The other returner is sophomore offensive lineman Alfred Edwards.
“It’s different not having that experience,” Love said. “But really it’s the O-line. If you look at the receiver position, we’ve had dudes that didn’t start, but they’ve got a lot of playing time under their belt and they’ve got a lot of (practice) reps. We built on it in the spring, trying to build that confidence and get them to that high level. We’re going to continue to do that in camp.”
Utah State also brought in a new coaching staff after Matt Wells left after last season for Texas Tech. He took offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach David Yost with him.
In came a familiar face to Aggies fans in Gary Andersen, who coached Utah State from 2009 to 2012 before leaving to take over Wisconsin and then Oregon State. Andersen hired Mike Sanford as his offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. Sanford was a graduate assistant at UNLV in 2005 and 2006 when his dad, Mike, was the Rebels’ coach.
The plan under Andersen and Sanford is to stay with the spread offense while making minor adjustments.
“We kept the terminology on the coaches’ learning side rather than the players’ learning side,” Andersen said. “There are some things we’d like to be able to do to play to our best 11 guys.”
Jordan Love file
School: Utah State
Honors: 2018 second-team all-conference
2018 stats: 64 percent completion rate, 3,567 yards, 32 TDs, six INTs