LOGAN — For a guy whose team was picked to finish last by his fellow coaches, Utah State coach Mick Dennehy is acting surprisingly optimistic as fall practice gets under way.
The Aggies welcomed 31 newcomers earlier this week and another 70 players Friday for picture day at Romney Stadium. All of the players will meet this morning for the first official practice and the start of two-a-day practices, which will last for nearly two weeks.
Many players are playing for their third coach in Dennehy, counting John L. Smith's final year in 1997 and Dave Arslanian's two years. Several of the players praised the new staff and Dennehy returned the compliment about his players.
"Obviously we're not very well thought of (in the polls)," said Dennehy as he sat in the middle of the Romney Stadium field. "But I think we're going to be a much better football team than people think we'll be."
Dennehy believes the Aggies are solid defensively, despite losing their four defensive line starters and have the potential to be a potent offensive team. While he said the quarterback job is open, he indicated that two-year starter Jeff Crosbie has the edge over sophomore Jose Fuentes and that the job is Crosbie's to lose.
In Emmett White and John Roberts, the Aggies have a pair of capable replacements for Demario Brown and the receiving corps, led by Aaron Jones, will feature several newcomers.
After the two weeks of two-a-days, the Aggies will taper off with one practice per day prior to their opener Sept. 2 against Texas Tech in Lubbock. They'll open their home season a week later against Southern Utah at Romney Stadium.
AGNOTES: Tony Newson, a starter at middle linebacker last year, is likely to be redshirted because he hasn't fully recovered from a shoulder injury from last season. A final decision will come next week . . . Blake Eagal, another starting linebacker from last year, was not on hand Friday because of the recent death of his mother . . . Another linebacker, Ryan Solomona, did not report for practice and will not likely play this year. Dennehy said he was upset over the shooting death of a close friend . . . Dennehy said a pair of freshmen linebackers, Robert Watts and Rodney Wilson, will be looked at closely this fall.