Utah State's football team turned the intensity up a notch by suiting up in full pads for the first time during fall camp inside Maverik Stadium on Wednesday afternoon. The practice included a little bit of everything, from positional drills to a controlled scrimmage with referees.
“Anytime you put the pads on and you come in the stadium, it changes the atmosphere,” said fifth-year head coach Matt Wells. “It was a good situation for them to be in. I thought they started out well, but I do not think we finished very well. I think we got tired at the end.”
As for individual groups thus far during fall camp, Wells has been pleased with the play of the offensive line and the secondary.
“I think the O-line is protecting pretty well right now and I’ve been happy with them. The secondary is playing well and breaking on the ball, but we’re dropping way too many balls,” said Wells.
Another area Wells has been impressed with through five practices is the play and retention of the linebacker corps.
“The newcomers are further ahead mentally, and we can do more with them. I hate to say that I’m surprised by that, but those guys getting in here this summer, you can tell they studied," he said. "Nice job by the vets teaching those guys."
Highlights from Wednesday’s practice were mainly on the defensive side of the ball as USU got interceptions from senior safety Dallin Leavitt, which he returned for a touchdown, along with junior safety Aaron Wade, sophomore safety Chance Parker and redshirt freshman safety Braxton Gunther. Sophomore nose guard Christopher ‘Unga also got into the scoring act, recording safeties on back-to-back plays.
The play of the defense during fall camp is no surprise to the coaching staff.
“They’re playing with energy,” said Wells. “They’re ahead of the offense right now, and typically, that’s the case a lot of the time in training camp. They’re playing with tremendous passion and a lot of energy, and guys feed off that. You have one or two or three guys doing it all the time, then you have success and it becomes everybody. Then the whole sideline gets into it, and people can feed off that energy.”
Offensively, the play of the O-line has led to a productive passing attack. Highlights from Wednesday’s practice included a 25-yard touchdown pass from redshirt freshman quarterback Jordan Love to senior wide receiver Jaren Colston-Green. Junior wide receiver Ron’quavion Tarver had six receptions for 65 yards on the day, while sophomore wide receiver Gerold Bright and redshirt freshman wide receiver Jordan Nathan both had solid practices. Two newcomers also flashed offensively on Wednesday in freshman running back Tre Miller and freshman wide receiver Aaren Vaughns, as both players broke out for 35-yard runs on back-to-back plays.
Wednesday was the fifth of 24 practices for the Aggies leading up to their season-opening game at No. 10 Wisconsin on Friday, Sept. 1, at 7 p.m. MT.
Defensive Player of the Day
Sophomore nose guard Christopher ‘Unga was dominate along the defensive line for Utah State on Wednesday with five tackles, which included 2.0 tackles for loss, as he had a pair of safeties on the day.
Offensive Player of the Day
Junior college transfer Roman Andrus continues to impress the coaching staff with his play on the offensive line after playing as a defensive lineman in junior college. Through the first week of fall camp, Andrus’ work ethic and production on the field has led to an impressive start for the offensive linemen.
Newcomer of the Day
Redshirt freshman safety Braxton Gunther is another talented player in USU’s deep secondary and had a productive day with three tackles, one pass breakup and one interception during USU’s first day in full pads.
Doug Hoffman is the associate athletic director for Utah State University Athletic Media Relations.