Utah State’s football team held its first official practice of the 2017 season Friday afternoon as 103 players dressed in helmets, practice jerseys and shorts for the two-hour workout on the USU practice fields. Among the group were 14 returning starters and 38 returning lettermen, including 18 seniors.
Fifth-year head coach Matt Wells was pleased with what he saw from his team on day one.
“We played with good tempo today and I saw good communication and guys lining up well,” said Wells. “There are a lot of guys out here that are bigger, stronger and faster than they have been, but we still have a lot of work to do.
“The area we are really focusing in on right now is in rebuilding both the lines, the O-line and D-line, so we will know more in a week or so.”
One position the team does not have to rebuild is the secondary as Utah State returns five starters and seven letterwinners there from last season, including senior safety Dallin Leavitt, who liked what he saw from USU’s defense on Friday.
“I thought the guys played hard today,” said Leavitt. “As a defense, there are a million things to clean up, but I thought the effort was there. I think we have a deep secondary and an experienced team.”
Offensively, Utah State will look to quarterback Kent Myers, and the senior was excited to be back on the practice field after a long offseason.
“It felt good to be back here today after going 3-9 last year,” said Myers. “Everybody was ready to come out here and prove that we are one of the best teams in the Mountain West. Today went well. It was a fast tempo and a quick practice, and I thought everyone did well.”
Highlights from Friday’s practice included a senior wide receiver in Jaren Colston-Green and two redshirt freshmen defensive backs in Baron Gajkowski and Ja’Marcus Ingram. Colston-Green had four receptions for 120 yards, including a 60-yard touchdown during live drills, while Gajkowski picked off two passes and posted four tackles and Ingram had three pass breakups and three stops.
Friday was the first 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. Utah State plays host to Idaho State on Thursday, Sept. 6, at 6 p.m., in its home opener, and begins Mountain West play on Saturday, Sept. 23, at San José State at 5:30 p.m. MT.
As part of the NCAA’s five-day acclimation period, Utah State will again be in shorts and helmets on Saturday, and then will add shoulder pads on Monday and Tuesday. The Aggies’ first practice in full pads is Wednesday, Aug. 9.
Utah State’s first two scrimmages are closed to the public, but fans are invited to its last scrimmage as part of Family Football Fun Day at Merlin Olsen Field at Maverik Stadium on Saturday, Aug. 19, at 2 p.m.
Doug Hoffman is the associate athletic director for Utah State University Athletic Media Relations.