Tom Smart, Deseret News
LOGAN — Spring football is winding down in Logan, but new Utah State head coach Matt Wells is still working hard and making evaluations of his team. With 18 returning starters back, Well's Aggies have had the look of a veteran team that is tweaking an already successful formula.
“I’ve liked the physicality of our players so far. That is to be expected with a mostly returning front seven and offensive line and starting tight end coming back” Wells said.
The Aggies have completed 13 practices and will have a final practice without pads Wednesday morning. The spring period wraps up Saturday with the Blue-White scrimmage. This year's Blue and White game will start at 2 p.m. at Merlin Olsen Field at Romney Stadium and is free to the public.
Wells and the coaching staff are still looking for improvements in the final sessions of spring ball. On offense the wide receiver group has had good moments from Dwayne Lorick, Travis Reynolds, Travis Van Leeuwen and JoJo Natson, but is still looking for a go-to target for star QB Chuckie Keeton to throw to.
Defensively, the front seven has had an excellent spring, but the defensive backfield could still use some fine-tuning. On special teams Wells pointed out a lack of consistency from the punting unit and getting better at field goals inside 40 yards as areas of opportunity.
Overall, Wells wants to continue to establish the identity of the team during the spring-ending scrimmage.
“I want us to play clean and fast,” Wells said of what he is looking for Saturday. “I want our sub groups to be nice and clean. I want players to play what they are. If you are first-team all-league I want you to play that way. If you want to be a starter, I want to see that.
“I want to see the offense take care of the ball and I want to see the defense get some picks,” Wells added. “I guess I’m talking out of both sides of my mouth with that.”
Evaluating against yourself can be a struggle for every coach as every big play has an equal and opposite reaction on the other side. A long touchdown catch can be caused by a blown defensive assignment or an interception can be the fault of a receiver running a bad route. Learning to not leap to conclusions during one play is part of the learning process for Wells in his first year at the helm.
“I try to reserve judgment until I see the tape,” Wells said. “If it’s a breakdown in communication in the back end then that’s an easy fix. What I like to see is when a kid wins a one-on-one battle. That makes for a much easier evaluation.”
While the practices are primarily centered on player evaluation, it has also been a chance for a new coaching staff to figure out their roles on the team. Wells has been working out the play-calling with offensive coordinator Kevin McGiven while other new coaches like defensive coordinator Todd Orlando have begun to find their place on the staff.
“It’s been a really smooth transition,” Well said. “We are going to try and get some more gameday situations in so we can really be ready to go when fall camp rolls around.”
Kraig Williams is a 2010 Utah State University graduate and regular Deseret News sports blogger. He can be followed on Twitter @DesNewsKraig.
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