LOGAN, Utah – Utah State football held its initial spring practice Tuesday morning as second-year head coach Matt Wells had 90 players suit up for the one hour and 45 minute workout in the Stan Laub Indoor Football Complex.
Of the 90 players that were donning helmets, practice jerseys and shorts Tuesday, 22 will be seniors, 19 will be juniors, 21 will sophomores and 28 are freshmen.
“I thought the effort was there and I thought there was a lot of juice and good intensity,” said Wells, the reigning Mountain West Coach of the Year. “It’s a work in progress and its fun to be back out here less than 70 days after the Poinsettia Bowl.
“Our main focus during spring is always development – individual development and group development – and finding leaders and playmakers in different spots, where there were defections from graduation,” added Wells.
As for Tuesday’s practice, Wells liked how the wide receivers and linebackers performed, including senior linebacker Zach Vigil who had an interception he returned for a touchdown.
“Our wide receivers had some bright spots today, and I think we are pretty good at linebacker,” said Wells. “I don’t need spring ball to tell me that.”
Utah State returns 15 starters (O-6, D-5, S-4) as part of 43 letterwinners (O-20, D-19, S-4) from last year’s 9-5 team that won the Mountain Division of the Mountain West Conference, played in the inaugural Mountain West Championship game, and defeated No. 24 Northern Illinois, 21-14, in the 2013 San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl.
Among those returning for Utah State includes seven players who have earned various all-conference accolades including senior quarterback Chuckie Keeton who was a first-team all-Western Athletic Conference selection following his sophomore season in 2012. Keeton will not participate in spring practice as he continues to recover from a knee injury suffered last year.
Other all-league players returning for Utah State including senior defensive end B.J. Larsen, senior linebacker Zach Vigil and junior linebacker Kyler Fackrell who were all named second-team all-Mountain West in 2013, while senior safety Brian Suite, senior placekicker Nick Diaz and junior wide receiver/punt returner Bruce Natson all earned honorable mention all-Mountain West honors a year ago.
Along with its seven returning all-league players, Utah State also returns four other starters on offense (QB – Darell Garretson; RB – Joe Hill, WR – Brandon Swindall; OT – Kevin Whimpey), one other starter on defense (LB – Nick Vigil), and three other returning specialists (P/K – Jaron Bentrude; LS – Nate Needham; K – Jake Thompson). Hill will not participate in spring practice either as he continues to recover from a knee injury suffered last year.
Utah State will continue with spring practice on Wednesday and Thursday morning, as players will wear pads for the first time Thursday. All practices are open to the public, with morning practices scheduled from 6:00 to 8:00 a.m. at the Stan Laub Indoor Football Complex. Afternoon practices are scheduled from 3:45 to 5:30 p.m. at Merlin Olsen Field at Romney Stadium. All practice days, times and locations are subject to change.
During the five-week period, the Aggies will participate in 15 spring practice sessions, culminating in the annual Blue vs. White Spring Game, presented by Orbit Irrigation Products, on Saturday, April 12 on Merlin Olsen Field at Romney Stadium at 2 p.m.
Wells also announced Tuesday that senior-to-be cornerback Jeremy Morris has been dismissed from the team for a violation of University policy. Morris played in all 14 games at USU during the 2013 campaign and recorded 15 tackles to go along with two pass breakups and one interception after transferring from Mesa (Ariz.) Community College.
Fans can follow the Aggie football program at twitter.com/USUFootball. Aggie fans can also follow the Utah State athletic program at twitter.com/USUAthletics or on Facebook at Utah State University Athletics.
<span style=”text-decoration: underline;”>2014 Utah State Football Spring Practice Dates</span>
Tues., March 4 – 6:00 – 8:00 a.m. – No Pads
Wed., March 5 – 6:00 – 8:00 a.m. – No Pads
Thur., March 6 – 6:00 – 8:00 a.m.
Tues., March 18 – 6:00 – 8:00 a.m.
Thur., March 20 – 6:00 – 8:00 a.m.
Fri., March 21 – 3:45 – 5:30 p.m. – Scrimmage
Tues., March 25 – 6:00 – 8:00 a.m.
Thur., March 27 – 6:00 – 8:00 a.m.
Fri., March 28 – 3:45 – 5:30 p.m.
Tues., April 1 – 6:00 – 8:00 a.m.
Thur., April 3 – 6:00 – 8:00 a.m. or 3:45 – 5:30 p.m.
Fri., April 4 – 3:45 – 5:30 p.m. – Scrimmage
Tues., April 8 – 6:00 – 8:00 a.m. or 3:45 – 5:30 p.m.
Thur., April 10 – 6:00 – 8:00 a.m. – No Pads
Saturday, April 12 – 2:00 p.m. – Blue vs. White Spring Game
– USU –