LOGAN — Utah State kicks off Year Two of the Gary Andersen era today when the Aggies gather for the beginning of spring drills.
The Aggies, which finished 4-8 last year and 3-5 in the Western Athletic Conference, are trying to take another step toward bowl eligibility.
But instead of the focus being entirely on taking the next step, there will be a lot of eyes watching a couple of position battles that weren't expected to be there when last season wrapped up.
Star running back Robert Turbin was expected to be one of the top rushers in the west. But he suffered a torn ACL during off-season conditioning drills, and his availability for the 2010 season is in doubt.
That means the starting job is wide open. Seniors Michael Smith, Derrvin Speight and sophomore Kerwynn Williams will have their shots at putting their name atop the depth chart until Turbin, if he is able to, returns to the field.
"We're really excited to get going. Our players have done a phenomenal job during their offseason workouts, getting bigger, faster and stronger, and we're ready to get out on the field," Andersen said. "The players have also done a terrific job of making a major push in improving their mental preparation, learning the schemes along with the ins and outs of their position and their assignments."
Andersen and the Aggies will return 19 starters (eight offense, nine defense, two special teams).
"Even though we have a lot of returners, no one's job is guaranteed. There will be competition at every position this spring," Andersen said. "One of our main goals is to improve in all areas, specifically administrative penalties, as well as our production in the red zone, both offensively and defensively. On offense, we've got to get touchdowns; while on defense, we've got to do a better job preventing the other team from scoring."
Also of note is the backup quarterback battle.
Kane Wilson was No. 2 behind Diondre Borel, but he left school during spring break and will not return to Utah State after a rough offseason that included a citation for possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia.
With Wilson out of the picture, the back-up job belongs to senior Jeff Fischer. The depth chart is a little thin after Fischer, though. Incoming freshmen Alex Hart and Jeremy Higgins will not be on campus until this summer and will not be able to work their way into the mix for a few months.
Borel, though, is one of the WAC's top returning offensive players, and with Turbin out, he may be asked to run a little more and pass a little less.
Then again, with a solid group of new and redshirting receivers back, Borel's passing may not suffer.
The Aggies will hit the ground today at 2:30 and continue practices each Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday until the spring game April 24.
Utah State football practice schedule
Tuesday, 2:30-4:30 p.m.
Thursday, 2:30-4:30 p.m.
Saturday, 10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
March 30, 2:30 - 4:30 p.m.
April 1, 2:30 - 4:30 p.m.
April 3, 10:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.
April 6, 2:30 - 4:30 p.m.
April 8, 2:30 - 4:30 p.m.
April 10, noon - 1:30 p.m. (scrimmage)
April 13, 2:30 - 4:30 p.m.
April 15, 2:30 - 4:30 p.m.
April 17, noon - 1:30 p.m. (scrimmage)
April 20, 2:30 - 4:30 p.m.
April 22, 2:30 - 4:30 p.m.
April 24, 2 p.m. (spring game)