LOGAN — Topping the best season in nearly two decades will be no easy task for the 2012 Utah State football team. The Aggies earned a bowl bid for the first time in 15 years and now have the task of making back-to-back bowl games for the first time in more than a half century — all the way back to the 1960 and 1961 seasons.
With that in mind, Gary Andersen's crew took its first step toward the 2012 campaign by completing the first of 14 spring football practices on Tuesday morning.
"After day one, it was positive," Andersen said. "We have got nine more opportunities to do that in the morning and we need to take advantage of every one like we did today."
For the first time since 2007, the Aggies won't have Robert Turbin or Bobby Wagner suiting up in a Utah State uniform, as both players are hoping to take their games to the next level.
The Aggies will be a young squad, but they do return 17 starters. The offense brings back seven players, including All-WAC honoree center Tyler Larsen and offensive tackles Eric Shultz and Oscar Melina-Sanchez. Split out wide will be receivers Chuck Jacobs and Matt Austin, who was recently granted a medical redshirt to return for a final season. Kerwynn Williams will get the large task of filling the shoes of Turbin and Michael Smith at the running back position.
"It is definitely really different," Williams said. "(Turbin) was definitely a very vocal leader. I am trying to be a little more vocal myself to try and help the other running backs around me."
Then there is the battle for the starting signal-caller position under new offensive coordinator Matt Wells, who takes over as O.C. after Dave Baldwin left for Colorado State. Chuckie Keeton and Adam Kennedy split time at quarterback last season and will battle for the starting position throughout the spring. Andersen pointed to the quarterbacks as an area of strength on the first day.
"It's every day, we fight together as a team to get better and fight as individuals to get better," Andersen said about the quarterbacks.
The defense will also have a new coordinator in Dave Arnada. Defensive tackle Al Lapuaho will be the only returning starter on the defensive line.
Bojay Filimoeatu and Tavaris McMillian will look to replace Wagner's play-making abilities at linebacker. The secondary will only need to find a new free safety during camp, as cornerbacks Jumanne Robertson and Nevin Lawson will join strong safety McKade Brady as incumbent starters.
"Our first practice, I think it went good on the defensive side," Filimoeatu said. "I'm not sure with the offense but our defensive side, we were actually more together than we had thought. Our ones (first-stringers) knew all the plays, second (string) was kind of off and third was right there with them, but other than that I think it was a good day for us."
Utah State is currently scheduled to practice on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m. at the Laub Indoor Facility and Friday afternoons from 2:30-4:30 p.m. at Merlin Olsen Field at Romney Stadium.
Utah State will wrap up camp with its annual spring game, which is scheduled for Saturday, April 28, at 2 p.m. The regular season beings Thursday, Aug. 30, at home against Southern Utah.
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