, Tom Smart, Deseret News
LOGAN — With just three weeks left before its season opener at Utah, Utah State conducted its first two-a-day practices of fall camp Thursday. Head coach Matt Wells was not thrilled with how his players opened the morning session, but thought they rebounded well during the evening practice.
“I thought the morning practice was sluggish for our standards. It wasn’t a waste and it wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t to our expectation level,” Wells said. “Tonight they came out focused. It was energetic and crisp and there was a lot better execution on both sides of the ball.”
The defense continued to show why it's expected to be stellar again this fall. Defensive end Connor Williams recovered a fumble for a touchdown during a quick scrimmage, while his teammates on the defensive line were able to get a consistent push on the offensive line.
“It will be fun to watch them wreak a little havoc on someone else soon,” Wells said.
In the defensive backfield, Rashard Stewart came up with two interceptions and continued what has been an excellent fall camp for the junior cornerback.
“He’s playing with confidence,” Wells said of Stewart. “His production is a direct reflection of what he’s done all summer and how he’s trained.”
Stewart will push Tay Glover-Wright for the starting cornerback job opposite of Nevin Lawson, or could end up being a playmaking option for the Aggies in their nickel packages.
On the offensive side of the ball, quarterback Chuckie Keeton is starting find chemistry with some new targets. Keeton looked the way of tight end D.J. Tialavea often during drills. The 6-4, 260 senior is a huge target for Keeton on short routes, but also found his way deep a few times. Known more for his blocking than his receiving, Tialavea could end up averaging more catches per game than the six he had all of last season.
The other developing go-to receiver is the polar opposite of Tialavea. At just 5-7, Bruce "JoJo" Natson can be difficult to spot, but Keeton was able to find the water bug receiver several times, including threading the needle down the seam for a 20-yard touchdown during a team practice session.
Threat of thunderstorms moved most of the evening practice to the Laub Indoor Training Center, but not before special teams got a chance to practice outdoors in the elements. The team ran through some fake punt options and the kickers got a chance to deal with the canyon winds blowing in with the storm.
“Those guys kicked it about 15 yards outside the upright and then the wind pushed it through and we made them all,” Wells said.
The Aggies will have a single practice Friday before lacing it up for their first scrimmage of fall camp on Saturday morning at 10 a.m. at Romney Stadium.
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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