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USU football: Aggies moving in the right direction under first-year head coach Matt Wells

By Doug Hoffman

For the Deseret News

Published: Thursday, March 21 2013 10:29 a.m. MDT

With 11 wins, a victory in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl and a Western Athletic Conference championship, it was just three months ago that Aggie fans were celebrating the most successful football season in school history.

Since then, Utah State football has seen numerous changes with the graduation of 16 seniors, the hiring of a new head football coach and four new assistants, and the addition of 24 new players with its latest signing class.

Matt Wells, who has spent the past two years on staff at Utah State, including serving as offensive coordinator during USU’s historic run in 2012, was hired on Dec. 20 to lead the Aggie football program as it transitions into the Mountain West Conference, while at the same time trying to build off and maintain the high level of play USU has achieved over the past two years.

Talk about your first two months on the job and what that has been like:

“It’s been quite the transition. We’re crazy busy, but it’s been good. The biggest thing I wanted to do right out of the gate was settle our players and get them headed in the right direction, then hire a staff and recruit. All three of those things were accomplished. Hiring the right staff with the right chemistry and the right expertise was very important to me.”

How was the hiring process and what do you expect from this group of coaches?

“It was a combination of guys that I’ve known for quite some time in the coaching profession and guys with certain recruiting expertise that we wanted to blend in with the four coaches we retained. Most of all, I wanted every coach I hired to have two things: No. 1, a passion for the players and for making them better young men on a daily basis and throughout their career, and No. 2, what was their niche and expertise from a coaching standpoint. I think it’s all blended well.

“I just want to see the ability to work together, to plan and motivate our players, and give them an edge in techniques and fundamentals. I want to see the things that will take a good player and make him great and an average player to make him good. I think it’s individual improvement, and then it’s team improvement and chemistry that you’re looking for in spring ball.”

Talk about winter conditioning and the players' work ethic thus far:

“The winter conditioning workouts have gone well. The players have been really internally energized to motivate their teammates and to improve. Our strength coach, (Dave Scholz), says that a lot of our numbers have improved. I think they’ve gotten bigger and stronger. The biggest thing is to continue to develop the chemistry and the leadership. We lost some leaders from last year, so different players have to step up now to fill different roles.”

Who are you seeing or hoping to see step up to fill those leadership roles?

“Some of them are back. Time will tell. Their performance will be able to help some of the leaders we want to step up, step up. The saying I always say is ‘Earn the right to be heard.’ There are some guys around here who have earned that right and we all know who they are. When they speak, players listen. Then there are guys on the team who haven’t done that yet who will. They’re going to get that opportunity and they need to step up and earn that right to become that leader.”

How does coming off the best season in school history and winning a bowl game affect the team and the players’ motivation?

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