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Utah State football: Plenty of motivation headed into spring ball

Published February 28, 2017 1:19 pm

USU football • Aggies hungry to put disappointing 3-9 season behind them.
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Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, the members of the Utah State football team will get spring ball underway early Tuesday morning with the goal of making last season's 3-9 record and a winter without a bowl game an aberration.

The first practice of the season begins at 6 a.m. as the Aggies hit the ground running with a three-day week of practices in what head coach Matt Wells likes to call the second quarter of the football season (the first quarter being the start of the offseason workout program). The first two sessions will be without pads.

The Aggies will hold 15 spring sessions, culminating with their annual Blue vs. White Spring Game on April 8 on Merlin Oslen Field at Maverick Stadium in preparation for their fifth season under Wells.

"We're always motivated internally, as we go into the new season, to have a great season and put ourselves in a position to compete in the month of November," Wells said. "We didn't do that last year. Didn't make a bowl game, and that leaves a bad taste in our mouths. So I'm anxious to get back out. This team is motivated. They're hungry. There's a quiet confidence to this team, right now, that I like."

After having won nine games or more in Wells' first two seasons, nine total wins the past two seasons and the end of a streak of five straight seasons playing in a bowl game were a bit of a shock to the system of Aggies supporters.

The results were jarring enough that the university's director of athletics John Hartwell put out a letter of support backing Wells in November, in which Hartwell acknowledged that this past fall the program, "did not meet the expectations of our student-athletes, our coaches, our administration, or our fan base."

Hartwell went on to assert that nobody took the disappointment harder than Wells before proclaiming complete confidence in the coach as "the man to lead us moving forward."

Wells, the first head coach to lead the Aggies to three bowl games and the only with multiple bowl wins, maintains that there has been a sense of urgency to put a great product on the field and compete for a championship throughout his tenure. That has not changed in his mind.

Fifteen starters — including seven from the Mountain West's third-rated defense — from last year's team return for the Aggies.

Senior cornerback Jalen Davis, who has started all 35 games he's played the past three seasons, will anchor the defensive backfield. Davis, the first true freshman to start a season opener at cornerback for the Aggies, garnered honorable mention all-conference honors in 2015.

Senior quarterback Kent Myers leads an offensive unit that figures to take on a slightly new look under first-year offensive coordinator David Yost. Yost, who has previously coached on Power Five conference staffs at Missouri, Washington and Oregon, will handle play-calling duties and coach quarterbacks.

Myers, who also earned honorable mention all-conference recognition in 2015, passed for 2,389 yards as a junior. He completed 58 percent of his passes and threw 10 touchdowns and eight interceptions. He also rushed for 659 yards last season, and moved into 25th place on the school's all-time rushing list. He ranks ninth all-time in passing yards.

"The biggest thing is we've got to rebuild the offensive line," Wells said of this offseason. "We've got rebuild the D-line, and then we're shuffling around some linebackers and trying to get the best combination of linebackers out there. The biggest thing is the front seven on both sides of the ball."

The Aggies will practice Tuesday through Thursday this week before taking next week off for spring break. Wells said he expects roughly 90 players to be on the spring roster, and two thirds of their offense and defense installed by the end of the first week.

lworthy@sltrib.com Twitter: @LWorthySports —

USU football spring dates

Tuesday • First practice

March 17 • Scrimmage

March 31 • Scrimmage

April 6 • Final practice

April 8 • Blue vs. White Game, 2 p.m.






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