Things were fast and up-tempo with a lot of communication. There are some guys that are a little bit bigger, stronger and faster. But we’ve still got a lot of work to do. —USU head coach Matt Wells
LOGAN — One day into fall camp, the 2017 Aggie football team is already making history.
Originally slated to practice in helmets and shorts from 2:10 to 4:15 p.m. Friday, USU head coach Matt Wells brought the Aggies’ inaugural practice session to a close just before 4 p.m.
“In 120 years of Utah State football, this was the shortest practice,” Wells proclaimed afterwards.
When asked why, Wells explained, “Just because of the pace that we’re going, and the work that we did late in the summer, I really think it’s got to be cumulative in effect. You can’t just keep adding on and adding on.
“We also studied a lot of our soft-tissue injuries, and I call them issues, and most of them have happened in the first three days of practice the past few Augusts. So, we’ll try and avoid that, too.”
Now heading into his fifth season as the head coach at his alma mater, Wells ran the show as 103 Aggies dressed for action on a hot and breezy afternoon in Cache Valley. Noticeably absent was last year’s leading receiver Ron’quavian Tarver, who will miss the team’s first two practices in order to attend a funeral in Florida.
“(Quarterback-turned-tight end) Damion Hobbs also sat out today while dealing with some hamstring tightness from the last week or two,” Wells added. “And we also have two or three kids that we’re waiting on transcripts to get finalized from an academic standpoint.”
However, Wells was excited about the return of a number of Aggies, most notably sophomore Dax Raymond. The tight end out of Timpview High School had to have back surgery after suffering an injury during the first day of training camp last August.
“It’s great to have Dax back,” Wells said with a big smile. “And also (linebacker) Mason Tobeck and (offensive lineman) Jarom Ioane. Those are three guys that basically missed the entire season last year.”
While Wells and his staff try to rebuild offensive and defensive lines decimated by graduation, the Aggie secondary is of little concern thanks to the return of five starters and seven letter-winners, including senior safety Dallin Leavitt.
Although he “got the breath knocked out of me” while defending a long touchdown pass from senior quarterback Kent Myers to senior wide receiver Jaren Colston-Green, Leavitt quickly returned to action and said he liked most of what he saw from the defense on the first day of practice.
“I thought the guys played hard today,” Leavitt said. “As a defense, there are a million things to clean up, but I thought the effort was there. I think we have a deep secondary and an experienced team.”
Of course a touchdown grab by Colston-Green in the end zone was one of the highlights of the day for the Aggie offense, which needed someone to step up due to Tarver’s notable absence.
“It was a great first day; one of the best I’ve ever had since I started playing football,” declared Colston-Green, who caught six passes for 176 yards and one touchdown in 2016.
“Kent and I connected really good, which I think is due to us working together this summer, even throwing together by ourselves. It really helps my confidence going forward. And I also think it helps Kent’s confidence that if he throws it up, I’m going to come down with it.”
In addition to his 60-yard touchdown reception, Colston-Green snagged three other passes for 120 total yards during live drills.
On the other side of the ball, two redshirt freshmen defensive backs racked up some of the day’s top plays. Lone Peak High product Baron Gajkowski totaled two interceptions and four tackles, while Ja’Marcus Ingram broke up three passes and added three tackles.
“Things were fast and up-tempo with a lot of communication,” Wells said of the Aggies’ opening practice session. “There are some guys that are a little bit bigger, stronger and faster. But we’ve still got a lot of work to do.
“I mean, we’re in shorts,” Wells added with a chuckle.
Utah State is scheduled to practice again Saturday afternoon and every afternoon next week leading up to the team’s first (closed) scrimmage on Saturday, Aug. 12, at Maverik Stadium.