Utah State football: Pads come out, Aggies turn up intensity
College football • Aggies said getting back to hitting was "good feeling."
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Logan • Helmets clunked together as players swarmed around Joe Hill. A blocker and a defensive end grabbed pads and shoved each other, not paying any heed to the whistles behind them.

After two days in shorts, lineman A.J. Pataiali'i said, it seemed right.

"It was a good feeling to get back to hitting," the senior nose guard said. "The big guys got to work today."

The intensity turned up for the Utah State football team Thursday, especially in the trenches where the offensive and defensive lines got a real feel for each other. Particularly in inside run drills, the play turned a bit chippy.

That was to be expected, said coach Matt Wells. The most important thing was they were hitting, not hurting each other, he said. And getting contact in practice is what really makes it football.

"We wanted to [run inside] right out of the gate," Wells said. "The last two days, it didn't count for that. Just to be able to get out there, buckle on your chin strap, bite down on your mouthpiece and come in was good."

The running backs had good burst Thursday, finding cutbacks and holes for some good gains in a variety of drills. Hill has also shown his versatility as a pass-catcher out of the backfield, but Wells said he'd be looking from continued consistency from the group as a whole.

In all, the offense took a step up from Wednesday, when Wells called out the receiving corps. Chuckie Keeton found Jojo Natson and Travis Reynolds all alone deep downfield in 11-on-11s. Shaan Johnson made several catches throughout the afternoon.

"The offense came out hard and ready to practice," Johnson said. "We took a step forward today."

In the first-team drills, Wells liked what he saw from both sides, but depth along the offensive front was a concern. Pass rushers were in the backfield often, and there were a few bad snaps tossed Jeff Manning's way on the third team.

"I think it was fairly give and take with the ones, and the twos and threes were a disaster up front offensively," Wells said. "I won't mince words."

Utah State's next public practice is Monday at 6:15 a.m. Wells said he would be looking at how the team handled the weekend turnaround.

kgoon@sltrib.com

Twitter: @kylegoon