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USU football: Utah State begins spring practice on Saturday, Feb. 24

FILE: Utah State head coach football Matt Wells addresses his team following a Nov. 2016 practice at Maverik Stadium in Logan.
FILE: Utah State head coach football Matt Wells addresses his team following a Nov. 2016 practice at Maverik Stadium in Logan.
Jeff Hunter,

Under the direction of head coach Matt Wells, Utah State football will begin spring practice on Saturday, Feb. 24, at 10 a.m. All practices will be held at the Stan Laub Indoor Football Complex or Merlin Olsen Field at Maverik Stadium.

During the five-week period, the Aggies will participate in 15 spring practice sessions, including their annual Blue vs. White Spring Game on Saturday, April 7, on Merlin Olsen Field at Maverik Stadium at 2 p.m.

Wells, who is entering his sixth season in charge of the Aggies, is the longest-tenured head football coach at USU since Chuck Shelton (1986-91) and tied for being the fourth-longest tenured head coach in 120 years of Aggie football.

Utah State returns 18 starters as part of 52 letterwinners from last year’s team that tied for fourth place in the Mountain Division of the Mountain West with a 4-4 record and finished its season at 6-7 after playing the NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl. Overall, it was USU’s sixth bowl game in the past seven seasons and the 12th in school history.

The 18 returning starters for Utah State are tied with the 2007 team for the most in school history, while the 52 returning letterwinners are the most ever at USU, bettering the 49 in 2013.

Highlighting Utah State’s returners in 2018 are four players who earned various all-Mountain West honors a season ago as junior PK Dominik Eberle earned first-team honors and was named a third-team All-American by Phil Steele and an honorable mention All-American by SB Nation, along with being a finalist for the Lou Groza Award. Senior OT Roman Andrus, senior OC Quin Ficklin and junior TE Dax Raymond all garnered honorable mention honors.

Utah State returns six other starters on offense in senior OG Rob Castaneda, senior OT Sean Taylor, senior WR Ron’quavion Tarver, junior OG Moroni Iniguez, sophomore QB Jordan Love and sophomore WR Jordan Nathan. In all, USU returns all five of its starting offensive linemen from the previous season for the first time since 2013.

Tarver, who earned third-team all-Mountain West honors from Phil Steele’s Magazine last season, is the most experienced returning player on offense for Utah State as he has played in 25 games and started 19 during his two-year career, while catching 94 passes for 1,171 yards (12.5 ypr) and 10 touchdowns. Entering his senior season, Tarver is just 37 receptions and six receiving touchdowns shy of entering the top 10 all-time in school history in both categories.

Utah State also returns nine starters on defense in senior DE Adewale Adeoye, senior LB Chase Christiansen, senior BS Gaje Ferguson, senior LB Suli Tamaivena, junior DE Devon Anderson, junior CB Cameron Haney, junior LB Justus Te’i, junior NG Christopher ‘Unga and sophomore CB Ja’Marcus Ingram, to go along with one other specialist returning in senior P Aaron Dalton.

Ferguson is the most experienced defender returning for Utah State as he has started 16 games and played in 21 during his first two years in the program. During his career, Ferguson has a team-best 130 tackles, which includes 4.0 tackles for loss. Two other Aggies have 100-plus tackles in their careers in senior linebackers Suli Tamaivena (111) and Chase Christiansen (110), as Tamaivena started all 13 games a year ago in his first season in the program, while Christiansen has played in 25 games and made 14 starts during his first three years at USU.

In all, Utah State returns 20 players who have played in at least 20 career games, while 37 players have started at least one game in the program.

As for the coaching staff, Utah State has two additions this season as Keith Patterson was hired as the defensive coordinator and safeties coach, replacing Kendrick Shaver, while Uani ‘Unga was hired as the new 10th assistant and will coach outside linebackers after serving as a defensive administrative assistant for USU in 2017. The last time USU had this little turnover in its staff was in 2010 when it retained all of its assistant coaches from the previous season.

Another coaching note is that Utah State will enter the 2018 season with the same offensive coordinator, David Yost, for the first time since the 2014 season when Kevin McGiven served in that role.

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