With the start of the college football season just a week away, Utah State can now start focusing on its first opponent of the year.
The Aggies officially kick off the 2015 campaign on Thursday, Sept. 3, by hosting FCS opponent Southern Utah at 7 p.m., on Merlin Olsen Field at Maverik Stadium. This is the first time Utah State has opened a season at home since beating these same Thunderbirds, 34-3, in 2012.
As the Aggies get set to open the new season, Utah State will do so with two new coordinators. Kevin Clune replaced Todd Orlando as the Aggies’ defensive coordinator, and he will also coach the linebackers. On the offensive side of the ball, third-year head coach Matt Wells hired Josh Heupel as an assistant head coach, offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, replacing Kevin McGiven.
We recently caught up with Heupel and discussed a number of topics, including the improvements that need to be made before the Southern Utah game and players that have shined during fall camp.
What have you liked about fall camp?
“If you’re just going to point out one thing, the kids have had a great, competitive spirit. They work hard, they come prepared and they push each other to get better every single day. They’re demanding of the guy next to them, too, so as long as you come with that mentality and attitude, you’re giving yourself a chance to get better every day.”
What needs to be improved the most before the season opener against Southern Utah?
“There isn’t just one thing. There are a million pieces that have to come together and everybody has got to do their part. We know we’re not going to be perfect in week one and you never are. This game isn’t about perfection, but we’ve got to make sure we’ve got the right mentality and toughness.”
Which players have emerged for you during fall camp?
“I don’t know if there is one guy that you can point to. There are a lot of guys at all positions that have continued to push forward. At the end of the day we’re going to find out a lot more about who and what we are when the lights turn on, too.”
Dax Raymond, a freshman tight end that just returned from an LDS Church mission, seems to have had a great fall camp. What do you like about him and what will he bring to the table?
“Size, length and speed at the tight end position, which needs to be a big part of what we’re doing in the run game and the pass game. He’s got to continue to develop fundamentally, but I really like what he’s been able to do, especially just being off his mission three months.”
It all starts up front with the offensive line. What have you liked about that group this fall?
“They’re a tough group. They’re going to play physical. They’re going to compete. They work every single day and they’ve got a pretty good understanding of what we’re trying to do offensively. We just have to continue to develop our communication up front when we’re seeing movement and those type of things from the defensive front seven, but I like the group as a whole and their competitive spirit.”
What does UCLA transfer Ben Wysocki bring to the offensive line?
“Experience in playing. I don’t care what conference you’re in, the guy has played at a high level and he’s competed, and has competed since he’s gotten here. His versatility is something that’s a great necessity for us. He’s going to play and he’s going to start. With his versatility, we can move him to multiple positions, which helps us with our depth issues.”
What can Aggie fans expect from the running back group this season?
“They’ve made a lot of strides from where they finished spring ball, like understanding the protections and being better fundamentally in protection schemes. Running the football, they’ve got a better understanding of the tracks, the schemes, how plays are going to develop, doing a better job of taking the blockers to the block, which is a big part of being a running back. That is a big part of being a running back and those guys have done a much better job with that.”
Like Dax Raymond, junior running back/wide receiver Kennedy Williams is another player who has done a great job during fall camp. What do you like about his game?
“He’s versatile and has the right make up as far as his individual characteristics. He’s smart, he competes and his skill set physically lets you play him in the backfield, lets you play him outside in the slot position. There are a lot of things you can do with him.”
The wide receiver group has been a little banged up during camp. How are they progressing?
“It’s a group that has kind of been snake bitten. Getting all those guys back healthy has really helped leading into game week. We need those guys to play at a high level, obviously, and be able to stretch things vertically. Taking the extra defender out of the box will help our run game, as well.”