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‘We’ve got a lot of work to do’: Utah State football focused on the basics in return to gridiron

The Aggies opened spring camp Monday afternoon, officially kicking off the Blake Anderson era.

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In this Nov. 14, 2020 file photo, the Utah State Aggies and the Fresno State Bulldogs play without a crowd due to COVID-19 restrictions in Logan. The Aggies opened spring camp Monday, kicking off a new era under head coach Blake Anderson.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Utah State football is back.

The Aggies opened spring camp Monday afternoon in Logan, officially ushering in the Blake Anderson era. What does the program look like under the new Coach A? Early reviews were overwhelming positive.

“We have an idea of what to work on now. We’ve got a lot of work to do, but if they come with that kind of attitude and will work with that kind of work ethic, we will have a chance.” — Utah State coach Blake Anderson

“Practice was exciting,” wide receiver Jordan Nathan said. “I haven’t felt like this, dare I say, since 2018 when we were really doing something. The whole atmosphere was exciting. Receivers doing what they were supposed to do. It was detailed, even on the defensive side of the ball. Everything was so competitive and we missed that the last couple of years.”

One of 14 ‘Super Seniors,’ aka those players who elected to utilize the additional year of eligibility granted by the NCAA, Nathan wasn’t the only Aggie vet who was energized.

“Great energy on both sides of the ball. There wasn’t no loafing,” safety Shaq Bond said. “A lot of what we did last year, we did differently. Overall, today was a great day for the first day.”

Anderson himself was pleased with what he saw from his team, though he noted that the Aggies have work to do. A lot of work in fact. It is difficult to rebuild a program.

“The energy was good,” Anderson said. “I thought the guys tried to give us what we wanted, but they don’t know what that is yet. I’ve got coaches who don’t know exactly what I want yet and that will take some time. Obviously the players are trying to figure out what we want, but the attitudes were great and you could tell they were excited to be out on the field.”

“We have an idea of what to work on now. We’ve got a lot of work to do, but if they come with that kind of attitude and will work with that kind of work ethic, we will have a chance.”

Traditionally, spring camp is about solidifying players’ positions, overall player development, and while Anderson hopes to get there at some point in the next month, he is keeping things simple to start.

“I told them today there are really three things we want to accomplish,” he said. “No. 1, we have to find out what kind of tempo and work ethic is expected. That is really the most important thing of spring.

“The second part is the foundations, the pure foundations of the scheme. And third, we need to see guys naturally rise to the top as leaders. If we can get that done in 15 days I would feel like it was a huge success. We have to be really patient and expect those things to be addressed on a daily basis before we worry about moving beyond that.”

What is known about the offense

Understandably, there wasn’t much to be gleaned about the Aggies’ offense after the first day of camp.

The most important points touched on were figuring out who the Aggies’ quarterback will be and building an offensive line.

“Clearly on offense we have to have a triggerman,” Anderson said, “Quarterback is what makes it all go. And the offensive line is going to be the foundation for the offense. Those are some key spots that we have to look at every day.”

Nathan offered some excitement for the future, though.

“It is the same type of offense as 2017 and 2018,” he said. “Fast, fast paced, extremely fast, maybe a little too fast for the first day. It is amazing. Our offense is really predicated on the defense. You guys will see in the future and you’ll love it.”

What is know about the defense

Much like on offense, there isn’t much known be gleaned about the defense this early in the process, but expect the Aggies to look nothing like they have in previous few seasons.

“Yeah it is a whole new scheme,” Bond said. “We ain’t doing nothing from last year at all. Everything is new.”

And the safety, who has designs on an NFL future, is optimistic.

“Everything is looking real good, especially with the players we have in those positions now,’ Bond said. “It is looking real nice and it is going to be hard to scheme against us because we don’t have this on film.”

A completely different atmosphere

The most notable thing gleaned from the first day is that this isn’t the USU program of the last couple of seasons. Anderson and company have completely changed the culture at Utah State.

“It was night and day,” Nathan said. “Everything seemed very detailed, everything was organized. Everyone was on the same page, no one was showing up late. Everyone was busting their tails and we felt like a team. A brotherhood. We all held each other accountable.

“Coach A brought that whole energy here, him and his staff. He asked us to want to be better every day and that was a great sign when he came in here. I seen an automatic change with the team.”