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USU football: Defense dominates first day of full pads

By Doug Hoffman

For the Deseret News

Published: Saturday, Aug. 9 2014 4:50 p.m. MDT

Updated: Saturday, Aug. 9 2014 4:50 p.m. MDT

USU coach Matt Wells during Utah State University football team practice { dow}, Aug. 5, 2014, in Logan.

Tom Smart, Deseret News

Enlarge photo»

Utah State’s defense dominated the first day of full pads Saturday morning on Merlin Olsen Field at Romney Stadium to conclude the first week of fall camp.

Overall, the Aggies’ defense recorded eight tackles for loss, three sacks, two quarterback hurries and one pass breakup during skeleton work and live drills.

“As a head coach, you have to be happy for the defense,” second year head coach Matt Wells said. “They were really stout in every drill today. The offense has to come out and respond on Monday. The defense sure responded. I was pleased with the offense for four days. They were making good progress, but they took a step backwards today. It's not a major crisis, but they need to respond on Monday.”

When asked to evaluate the first week of fall camp, Wells quickly pointed out that the strength of USU’s defense will once again be with its front seven, while he has been pleasantly surprised with the play of several newcomers in the secondary.

“I think we have picked up where we left off with the front seven on the defense. I like what those guys are doing," Wells said. "Our linebackers are very active with very good leadership. I've been pleasantly surprised with some young guys in the back end. We've been moving them around, so to comment on the secondary as a whole is hard. Offensively, it's great to see Chuckie (Keeton) and Joe (Hill) out there. You see Joe get tackled and pop up. That did a lot for his confidence. There are just some inconsistencies that need to be righted. It's not a major crisis, but if we're going to play elite-level offense like we've been the last three years, that's what we need to expect.”

The majority of the highlights from Saturday’s practice were on the defensive side of the ball as senior safety Brian Suite had a pair of tackles for loss, while senior nose guard Elvis Kamana-Matagi had two tackles for loss, which included one sack. Offensively, junior wide receiver Hunter Sharp continued to practice well and took a lot of reps with the No. 1 offense on Saturday, while freshman tight end Marcus Mosely had two receptions during live drills, including a 39-yard pass from freshman quarterback Kent Myers. Senior wide receiver Ronald Butler added a 24-yard touchdown reception from senior quarterback Chuckie Keeton.

Saturday was the fifth of 29 practices for Utah State leading up to its season opener at Tennessee on Sunday, Aug. 31 at 5 p.m. MT.

Utah State begins the second week of fall camp with its first two-a-day practice on Monday, Aug. 11, practicing from 9:15-11:15 a.m., and again from 4:55-6:25 p.m. on the practice fields. USU’s first scrimmage of fall camp will be on Merlin Olsen Field at Romney Stadium on Tuesday, Aug. 12 at 6 p.m.

Utah State opens its 2014 season Sunday, Aug. 31, at Tennessee and plays its first home game the following weekend against Idaho State on Saturday, Sept. 6 at 6 p.m. USU's first Mountain West game will be at home against Air Force on Saturday, Oct. 11, and the Aggies conclude the regular season at MW foe Boise State on Saturday, Nov. 29. The Mountain West Championship game will be held Saturday, Dec. 6, at the home stadium of the divisional champion with the highest College Football Playoff Committee ranking.

All practices during fall camp, which concludes Saturday, Aug. 23, are open to the public.

Doug Hoffman is the associate athletic director for Utah State University Athletic Media Relations.

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