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'This is a Power Five football program:' Utah State Aggies excited, confident at the outset of fall camp

Utah State head football coach Gary Andersen talks to his team at the end of Saturday's scrimmage at Maverik Stadium in Logan.
Utah State head football coach Gary Andersen talks to his team at the end of Saturday's scrimmage at Maverik Stadium in Logan.

LOGAN — Utah State head coach Gary Andersen sat down in front of a large white backdrop with dozens of school logos emblazoned on it — all Aggie blue, of course — and he looked comfortable, relaxed, even, if a bit cold.

“It’s freezing in here,” he declared to the media assembled together on the second floor of the Jim & Carol Laub Athletics-Academics Complex Wednesday.

That was the extent of any discomfort the Aggies’ head football coach showed, though, as Utah State hosted its media day ahead of fall camp, which officially kicks off Thursday.

No, Andersen was at ease and appeared genuinely pleased to be an Aggie again, especially with the football season drawing ever closer.

“This is a good day for our kids,” Andersen said. “Excited to get back to camp. We’ll do some walkthrough stuff today and then officially kick off camp tomorrow. We are excited to be back. The kids are excited.”

Quarterback Jordan Love, a player to watch for, well, practically every national award related to quarterbacking, was in agreement.

“I am excited to start camp,” Love said. “Summer has been good, we’ve been grinding. We got some new faces in, got some chemistry-building done, but this is when the fun starts. Everyone is excited Coach A is here and we are excited to continue the transition. Can’t wait.”

While fall camp will be an adjustment for the players this season, thanks to a new coaching staff, it will be even more so for Andersen.

Much different from the summer of 2009, when he first led an Aggie team into a season.

Those differences stem largely from time passed, as well as Utah State’s now-membership in the Mountain West Conference.

“2009 was a lot of rodeos ago,” Andersen said. “(Utah State) is markedly different. Fall camp has changed in college football since then, too, there are no more two-a-days, which I believe is a positive thing.

“Structurally, though, we are in a much better place to take care of our kids. From a nutritional standpoint, facilities standpoint, weight room, there is just a huge upgrade in a positive way. The Mountain West has really helped us progress as an athletic department as a whole.”

The Aggies enter fall camp in good, if not perfect, shape as a result.

“We are pretty healthy right now,” Andersen said. “We have to continue to learn and stay healthy. That is where we sit.”

Camp itself promises to be one of the most competitive in years, with starting jobs up for grabs across many a position group, including the offensive and defensive lines, throughout the secondary, and at linebacker and receiver.

“This will be an extremely competitive camp,” Andersen said. “There are a lot of kids that want the starter tag next to their name. That’ll be fun to watch.”

No matter who starts, Utah State is expected to contend in the Mountain West, after being picked to finish second in the Mountain division at the conference’s annual Media Days, held earlier in the month.

“This is a team that is expected to come and play well,” Andersen said.

How well will come down to the players themselves, a point of emphasis of Andersen’s, even as he praised the experienced coaching staff he has in Logan.

“We had a leadership retreat and it was a tremendous opportunity for our captains to come together and set goals,” he said. “They understand they need to set their goals. They are not our goals as coaches, it is the football team’s goals.”

Andersen singled out the leadership of multiple Aggies — including Love, linebacker David Woodward, kicker Dominik Eberle, running back Gerold Bright and defensive end Tipa Galeai — as positives on that front.

“It is extremely important that a team is held accountable by the players,” Andersen said.

Surveying the state of his football team, Andersen — who has helmed programs at Wisconsin and Oregon State — noted, “Utah State has made tremendous strides. We don’t have Power Five next to our name, but this is a Power Five football program.”

The Aggies will have a chance to prove it on the field early in the year, with games at Wake Forest (ACC) and LSU (SEC). Until then, there is work to be done and they are excited for it.

MIKE FAVERO: The former Logan High football coach will be an offensive analyst for the Aggies this season, a boon to the program, per Andersen.

“I have great respect for his team, great respect for so many of the kids who played for him,” Andersen said. “They came in and were really prepared. I know he’ll make us better. It is a huge plus on the whole.”

As an analyst, Favero will not coach.

“He can’t,” Andersen was quick to point out. “He is very limited, but he can help us stay ahead of opponents and understand opponents more.”

SUMMER SEMESTER: One oddity of fall camp is that summer semester is ongoing for many players.

“It is a really unique first week of camp with kids still in summer school,” Andersen said.

As a result, the Aggies won’t spend much time within the confines of Maverik Stadium, not at first at least.

“We’ll practice on the grass until that is over,” Andersen said.