Utah State’s football team officially begins fall camp on Friday, Aug. 5, with its first practice from 2:15 to 4:15 p.m., on the USU practice field located between the football stadium and the indoor practice facility.
Fourth-year head coach Matt Wells welcomes back 12 starters (O-9, D-3) and 38 letterwinners (O-20, D-15, S-3) from last year's team that finished tied for second in the Mountain Division of the Mountain West with a 5-3 record and played in its school-record fifth-straight bowl game.
During the last four years, Utah State is the only program among the Group of 5 (American Athletic, Conference USA, Mid-American, Mountain West and Sun Belt) to record a win against an Associated Press top-25 team each season. In 2012, USU won at No. 19 Louisiana Tech (48-41, OT). In 2013, USU defeated No. 24 Northern Illinois (21-14) in the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl. In 2014, USU was at No. 18 BYU (35-20). And in 2015, USU defeated No. 21 Boise State (52-26) at home.
“We are excited to start the season and begin working on the 2016 edition of the Aggies, and I expect a high-energy and fast-paced practice Friday,” Wells said. “Our players have done a great job of preparing for fall camp and I’m excited to see that dedication play out on the practice field. There are several holes to fill from last year’s team due to graduation and we as a staff are looking forward to developing these young men into a successful team.”
Practices on Friday and Saturday, Aug. 5-6, will have players in helmets, practice jerseys and shorts as part of the five-day acclimation period before adding shoulder pads for practices on Monday and Tuesday, Aug. 8-9. USU will then be in full pads on Wednesday, Aug. 10, leading up to its first two-a-day practice on Friday, Aug. 12.
Utah State’s first two scrimmages will be closed to the public, but fans are invited to its last scrimmage as part of Family Football Fun Day, sponsored by Macey’s, at Merlin Olsen Field at Maverik Stadium on Saturday, Aug. 20, at 6 p.m.
Utah State’s offense in 2015 finished the season ranked sixth in the Mountain West and 64th in the nation in scoring at 29.0 points per game, while ranking fifth in the conference and 42nd in the nation in sacks allowed (1.60 pg).
Defensively, Utah State finished the 2015 campaign ranked among the top 45 in the nation in 10 categories, including ranking fourth in the Mountain West and 61st in the nation in scoring defense at 26.7 points per game. The Aggies also ranked third in the MW and 17th in the nation in total defense (332.5 ypg), fourth in the MW and 12th in the nation in passing defense (180.5 ypg), fourth in the MW and 47th in the nation in rushing defense (151.9 ypg), fifth in the MW and 48th in the nation in passing efficiency (121.8) and sixth in the MW and 67th nationally in sacks (2.10 pg).
Utah State’s defense also ranked first in the Mountain West and 11th in the nation with its 12 fumble recoveries, second in the MW and 25th in the nation with three touchdowns, third in the MW and 21st nationally in opponent third down conversions (.338), third in the MW and 22nd in the nation in first downs allowed (17.6 pg), fourth in the MW and 43rd nationally with its 22 turnovers forced, and sixth in the MW and 50th in the nation in tackles for loss (6.6 pg).
Highlighting Utah State’s returners are six players who earned honorable mention all-Mountain West honors a year ago in senior OT Austin Albrecht, senior PR Andrew Rodriguez, senior OT Jake Simonich, senior OC Austin Stephens, junior CB Jalen Davis and junior QB Kent Myers, while senior FS Devin Centers earned honorable mention all-MW honors as a sophomore in 2014.
Along with the players mentioned above, Utah State also returns five other starters on offense (TE-Wyatt Houston, RB-LaJuan Hunt, RB-Devante Mays,WR-Braelon Roberts and WR-Andrew Rodriguez) and one other starter on defense (DE-Ricky Ali’fiua), to go along with three specialists returning (P-Aaron Dalton, K-Jake Thompson and PK-Brock Warren).
Another player returning for Utah State is senior NG Travis Seefeldt, who missed the 2015 season due to injuries sustained in a car accident in the summer of 2015.
Heading into the 2016 season, Ali’ifua, Seefeldt, Simonich and Stephens were all named to the preseason all-Mountain West team, as voted on by the league’s media.
Utah State lost six players who earned various all-Mountain West honors in 2015, including LB Kyler Fackrell and LB Nick Vigil, who both earned first-team honors; WR Hunter Sharp, who was named to the second team; and NG David Moala, OG Tyshon Mosley and DE Jordan Nielsen, who were all named to the honorable mention team. Fackrell was also named a fourth-team All-American by Phil Steele.
Other starters lost include SS Marwin Evans, LB LT Filiaga, OG Taani Fislau, CB Tyler Floyd, CB Deshane Hines, QB Chuckie Keeton, WR Devonte Robinson and OL Ben Wysocki.
Utah State opens the 2016 season on Thursday, Sept. 1, at home against Weber State and begins Mountain West play on Saturday, Sept. 24, at home against Air Force.
Doug Hoffman is the associate athletic director for Utah State University Athletic Media Relations.