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UTAH STATE GRIDDERS OPEN FALL PRACTICE

Players new to the Utah State program, some 32-35 of them, reported for the first time Tuesday and got their first taste today of John L. Smith-style football Wednesday as they and the new Aggie coaching staff opened fall practice.

"We have two days with those guys," says Smith of the newcomers - freshmen and transfers, about 25 of them on scholarship and another eight to 10 invited walkons. "We'll throw everything at them," he said.Aggie coaches Wednesday and Thursday were to run all the rookies through every drill and just about every play they'll see all season.

Smith says he expects to have 76 players "on aid" and about 20 others in the program this season. That's a lot fewer than the 105 allowed, but Smith reasons that he's used to working with that number from his I-AA days at Idaho and, "We have to spend as much time with the kids that are going to play as we can."

Smith hopes the attrition problems that decimated coach Charlie Weatherbie's last Aggie squad last season, taking it from 105 players to about 63, don't recur and says his Idaho teams were fortunate to not have many offensive-line injury problems. That was one of the factors in USU's 3-8 1994 record, 2-5 in Big West Conference.

He even has good news about sophomore offensive lineman Marcus Daley, who was thought to be gone for the year with spinal disc problems but, following surgery last week, is now projected to be healthy by midseason.

Though picked last week to place fifth in the league by the Big West media and seventh by the Big West coaches, Smith guesses that if the Ags do well in their first four games - Sept. 2 at Arkansas State, Sept. 9 hosting Boise State, Sept. 16 hosting Southern Mississippi and Sept. 30 at San Jose State - they may have the potential "to maybe win the league."