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USU football: Aggies looking to replace three starters on offensive line

Utah State must replace three starters on the offensive line this season.
Utah State must replace three starters on the offensive line this season.
Twitter screenshot, @USUFootball

Utah State’s football team held its seventh practice of the 2017 season Friday afternoon, and the offensive line continues to build chemistry among its group as the Aggies are less than three weeks away from kicking off the regular season.

“We obviously have a long way to go after losing three starters from last year’s team and then trying to get this thing rolling again,” said offensive line coach Steve Farmer. “It’s a work in progress. It’s a little bit up and down right now. We’ve had our days where we have come out and played really well, and we’ve had our days, such as today, where we’ve taken a step back.”

Utah State must replace three all-Mountain West performers on the offensive line from a year ago in out-going seniors Austin Albrecht, Jake Simonich and Austin Stephens. In fact, those three combined to play in 130 career games and made 106 starts.

Fortunately for Utah State, it returns two starters from last season in senior offensive tackle Preston Brooksby and junior offensive guard KJ Uluave. Brooksby played in all 12 games last season, making 11 starts, while Uluave has played in 14 games the past two seasons and made four starts a year ago.

Other returning players with in-game experience include senior offensive guard Jarom Ioane and junior offensive tackle Cody Boyer.

In all, the Aggies’ offensive line returns four players who have played in a combined 35 games with 16 starts.

Utah State also returns six other players with experience in the program in senior Andrew Chen, redshirt junior Sean Taylor and redshirt freshmen Demytrick Ali’ifua, Viliamu McMoore and Ty Shaw.

Newcomers who participated in spring drills and will compete for starting jobs in the fall include junior transfers Roman Andrus, Rob Castaneda and Quin Ficklin. Players who joined the team in the summer include sophomore transfer Moroni Iniguez, as well as freshmen Chandler Dolphin, Alfred Edwards, McCord Meyers and Wyatt O’Banion.

“Roman’s doing a great job,” said Farmer. “I’m excited about him. He’s still learning the position and there’s some nuances we have to continue to grow on. Moroni (Iniguez) has been a nice addition. We picked him up this summer. I’m excited about him. He’s still in the process of learning. He’s much more comfortable at just playing offensive line than Roman, with Roman coming over from the D-line. However, it’s just him figuring out the offense. We need some guys to step up into leadership roles. That’s probably what we’re missing the most right now.”

Andrus said he's proud of the offensive line's hard work so far.

“I’m really proud of how the O-line has been working,” said Andrus. “Definitely, we’re coming together better as a unit. We still have a lot of work to do, but I’m happy to be with these guys, the guys we have in our room and in our position. I’m looking forward to it.

“We’ve had glimpses of greatness, I’d say. We’re coming off the ball really hard. We’ve had a couple days of practice where we’ve ran the ball very, very well. I think that there’s definitely a lot of room for improvement in certain areas. Like I said, we still have to come together, but it’s coming along very well."

Friday was the seventh of 24 practices for the Aggies leading up to their season-opening game at No. 10 Wisconsin on Friday, Sept. 1, at 7 p.m. MT, in a game that will be nationally televised on ESPN.

Defensive Player of the Day

Sophomore defensive lineman Jacoby Wildman continues to impress during fall camp as he had four tackles, including two tackles for loss, on Friday.

Co-Offensive Players of the Day

A pair of running backs get the nod here as junior Justen Hervey and freshman Tre Miller each showed good speed and power. Hervey had 10 carries for 65 yards, including a pair of 3-yard touchdown runs, while adding three receptions for 15 yards. Miller finished the day with eight carries for 45 yards and one score.

Newcomer of the Day

Junior linebacker Ofa Latu had five tackles and a fumble recovery during Friday's practice as the linebacker corps continues to impress during fall camp.

Doug Hoffman is the associate athletic director for Utah State University Athletic Media Relations.