Utah State's football team held its 10th practice of the 2018 season Monday afternoon, and the Aggie offensive line is looking to build off last season as it returns all five of its starters as part of seven letterwinners who combined to play in 85 games with 65 starts a year ago.
“Obviously, we are excited about the season with five returning starters coming back on the offensive line,” said third-year offensive line coach Steve Farmer. “Our expectations this fall are to be the premier offensive line in the Mountain West. We have a great group of young talent, and I know we have a talented group returning; we just need to be able to perform at a high level, week in and week out.”
In all, Utah State returns 11 offensive linemen who were members of the program during the 2017 season, including all five 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.
Utah State also welcomes back two other letterwinners here in sophomores Demytrick Ali'ifua and Ty Shaw, in addition to seniors Jake Templeton and KJ Uluave.
Andrus, Castaneda, Ficklin and Iniguez each 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 were a good offensive line last year. We need to be great this year, and that starts with us communicating better than we did last year,” said Ficklin. “With all the guys we have coming back, including the five starters, it should help us relax and keep our stress and anxiety down. We have a lot more talent in our room this year than we did last year, so what was acceptable as a starter going into the Wisconsin game is different than what is acceptable as a starter heading into the Michigan State game this year.”
Furthermore, Utah State welcomes back two offensive linemen who redshirted last season in freshmen Chandler Dolphin and Alfred Edwards, while sophomore Connor Meyers is in his first season with the group after spending last year with the defensive line.
In addition to the 12 returners, Utah State added seven newcomers to the mix with one junior college transfer in sophomore Kyler Hack (Las Vegas, Nevada/Orange Coast CC), to go along with six freshmen in Heneli Avendano (Sandy, Utah/Jordan HS), Wyatt Bowles (West Point, Utah/Syracuse HS), Andy Koch (Eastvale, California/Eleanor Roosevelt HS), Wade Meacham (Layton, Utah/Layton HS), Karter Shaw (South Jordan, Utah/Herriman HS) and Jacob South (Anacortes, Washington/Anacortes HS).
Monday was the 10th of 24 practices for the Aggies leading up to their season-opening game at Michigan State on Friday, Aug. 31, at 5 p.m. MT, in a game that will be nationally televised on the Big Ten Network. Utah State will then begin its home season the following weekend against New Mexico State on Saturday, Sept. 8, at 6 p.m., in a game that will be streamed live on Facebook. Mountain West play begins two weeks later as USU hosts Air Force on Saturday, Sept. 22, in a game that will be televised nationally on one of the ESPN Networks.
Utah State's first two scrimmages are closed to the public, but fans are invited to its last scrimmage as part of Football Family Fun Day at Merlin Olsen Field at Maverik Stadium on Saturday, Aug. 18, at 2 p.m.