LOGAN — As the Utah State football team reached the halfway point of spring football practice Saturday, second-year coach Mick Dennehy was about as pleased as he can be.

The Aggies haven't suffered any major injuries, the young players are gaining valuable experience and the weather has been outstanding. What more could he ask for?

Well, perfect play from each of his players would be nice, but Dennehy will take what he's seen so far.

The Aggies, who are coming off a 5-6 season, held their first scrimmage of the spring Saturday morning, but Dennehy says it was mostly an opportunity for young players to get experience. He said the team is "way ahead" of last year, with the coaches being more familiar with the players and the players understanding the system much better.

"It's nice to have some kids back with experience, even though you don't want to overlook the young players," he said. "We know (the experienced players) and they know what to expect."

Dennehy said one of the main goals of the spring is to find out which of the younger players might be ready to play in the fall.

"We need to elevate the play of some of the younger kids who don't have the repetitions of the older kids and find out who is most ready to play in the fall," he said. "We need to give the young guys as many reps as we can."

The Aggie coaches know what a guy like Emmett White can do. White was an all-league performer after rushing for 1,322 yards and leading the nation in all-purpose rushing. Although he is working out with the team, he hasn't participated in contact drills because his hand is in a cast.

Besides White, John Roberts returns at running back, and the Aggies are taking a good look at sophomore David Fiefia, who played receiver last year, and Roger Fernandez, a redshirt freshman, at the running back positions.

The quarterback position looks solid with two experienced signal-callers, returning starter Jose Fuentes and Jeff Crosbie, the 1999 and 2000 starter, who missed most of last season with an injury. Crosbie didn't start practicing full-time until Friday, however, because of a viral infection. Besides those two, the Aggies have redshirt freshmen Robert Fockaert and Travis Cox, who completed a 65-yard touchdown pass to Kevin Curtis in the scrimmage.

"Jose has had a really good spring and picked up right where he left off," said Dennehy. "I'm pleased with the progress of the young kids (Fockaert and Cox) and they need to get as much experience as possible."

At receiver, the Aggies will have to replace Aaron Jones, who caught 117 passes for 15 touchdowns the past two years. Also, two underclassmen receivers, Michael Brignac and JerRon Tatum, didn't return to the team this spring.

While Dennehy is concerned with the depth at receiver, he is pleased with the progress of returnees Chris Stallworth, Marshall Sanders and Jason Deml, and singled out newcomers Gary Coleman, a JC transfer, and Curtis, a walk-on from Snow College as "making huge strides."

The USU defense struggled last year with several freshmen and sophomores being forced to play, but this year the defense will try to turn that experience into a positive.

Three starters return on the defensive line, along with Nick Onaindia, a starter from the previous year who sat out with an injury last year. The linebacking corps got hit hard, but Tony Newson is back off an injury-redshirt year and Jesse Busta returns. The secondary, led by four-year starter Tony Walker, is back intact.

Besides White, other starters who have sat out this spring are offensive tackle Jim Newton and defensive lineman Nate Putnam, who are both recovering from shoulder surgery.

Utah State is also trying to develop a placekicker to replace four-year starter Brad Bohn with Ogden product Dane Kidman doing most of the kicking this spring. Kidman booted a 37-yard field goal in Saturday's scrimmage.

The Aggies will practice four times next week and three the next, concluding with the annual Blue-White game the night of April 13.


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