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USU football: offensive line looks to build off last season during spring football practices

Utah State football held its second spring practice Monday morning in the Stan Laub Indoor Complex, and the offensive line is looking to build off last season as it returns all five starters as part of seven letterwinners who combined to play in 85 games with 65 starts a year ago.

“We have a different challenge this year as opposed to last year with the offensive line,” said third-year offensive line coach Steve Farmer. “This year, we want to lead from up front, and our expectations have changed. We need to continue to grow and be pushing to be the best offensive line group in the Mountain West.”

In all, Utah State returns 12 offensive linemen who were members of the program during the 2017 season, including all five of starters in senior OT Roman Andrus, senior OG Rob Castaneda, senior OC Quin Ficklin, junior OG Moroni Iniguez and senior OT Sean Taylor. Andrus and Ficklin both garnered honorable mention all-Mountain West honors a season ago.

“This year is different because we have a lot of returning guys and we are a lot further along right now than we were last year, and personally, I have a lot more experience on the offensive line with a year under my belt,” said Andrus. “It’s great to build off the chemistry we had last year with the returning guys, and we have some new guys that are going to be good contributors for us this year.”

Utah State also welcomes back two other letterwinners in sophomores Demytrick Ali’ifua and Ty Shaw, in addition to seniors Jake Templeton and KJ Uluave.

Andrus, Castaneda, Ficklin and Iniguez started all 13 games a season ago for Utah State, while Taylor started all 11 games he played in. Ali’ifua started two games last season and played in all 13, while Shaw saw action in six games. Uluave is the most experienced Aggie on the offensive line, as he has played in 15 games during his career, making four starts, while Templeton appeared in one game after moving over from the defensive line.

“We’re working on technique this spring,” added Andrus. “Last year, we were trying to learn the offense. Right now, we already know the offense, so we are working on the little details that hurt us last season.”

Furthermore, Utah State welcomes back three offensive linemen who redshirted last season in freshmen Chandler Dolphin, Alfred Edwards and Wyatt O’Banion, while sophomore Connor Meyers is in his first season with the group after spending last year with the defensive line.

In addition to the 13 returners, Utah State added four newcomers to the mix with one junior college transfer in Kyler Hack (Las Vegas, Nevada/Orange Coast CC), to go along with three freshmen in Heneli Avendano (Sandy, Utah/Jordan HS), Wade Meacham (Layton, Utah/Layton HS) and Brackin Stringam (Lehi, Utah/Lehi HS).

“Things we are working on this spring are we’ve got to protect the quarterback better, and we are working to eliminate tackles for loss,” said Farmer.

Utah State continues with spring practice on Tuesday and Thursday, before taking next week off for spring break. USU will then return to the practice field on Tuesday, March 13, for its first of three practices that week, culminating with its first scrimmage of the spring on Friday, March 16.

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.

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