Camp Shelton opened at the Utah State University football practice field Saturday with lots of pluses and few minuses as the Aggies began two-a-day drills.
"We haven't had any areas where we're unhappy or dissatisfied," said Coach Chuck Shelton, entering his fifth season and thinking that this is potentially his best team.The veteran players returned in good physical shape - and there are a lot of veterans among the 95 players listed on the roster. Shelton had expected more than 100 but didn't seem concerned.
Some newcomers learned quickly they needed to do more in the off-season. "A year ago that would have bothered me," said Shelton, "but now it doesn't." That's because he shouldn't have to use many youngsters.
Shelton has "little checks and balances" to determine team readiness, and those things, like commitment to practice, are at a high. "This is the best year," he said.
He uses players like redshirt freshman free safety Damon Smith and sophomore offensive tackle Brian Funk of nearby Hyrum as examples.
"Smith had an excellent day - but we didn't have anybody have a bad day," Shelton said.
Shelton "was kind of in shock at how great a day Funk had," with regard to hustle, conditioning and desire to work out. "A fantastic day," Shelton said.
He also liked the way freshman quarterback Lex Stoehr came back. He participated well in spring ball, "And he just picked up where he left off," Shelton said.
Because so many are lettermen, Shelton expects to be 45-50 minutes ahead of usual after the first week of practices.
Normally, he gears the first week toward a Saturday scrimmage, but this time he'll concentrate on several smaller scrimmages throughout the week before the big one Saturday at 9:30 a.m. There's a 30-minute passing scrimmage set for Wednesday afternoon, a goal-line/short-yardage situation scrimmage for Thursday morning and a 30-minute play-action pass scrimmage set for Thursday afternoon.
"We're doing everything earlier and did more team stuff today than we normally do, and the kids really handled it well," said Shelton, who had 11-on-11 drills going right away.
"It's going to go a lot faster," predicts senior cornerback Greg Haynes. "Now it's just fine-tuning what we already know how to do - not so much thinking, and a lot more executing."
"The freshmen are going to the wrong spots, but the veterans know their spots," said junior quarterback Kirk Johnson, who has a year's experience as a starting QB.
"It was obvious Kirk had been there. Certainly you could tell the veterans today," Shelton said.
AGGIE NOTES - Only one player, freshman cornerback Charlie Thornton, didn't come to camp as expected. Sophomore fullback Paul Trette, who missed spring drills because of achilles tendon surgery, had to drop out because of the injury. Freshman wide receiver Dearic Jackson was the first casualty of practice with a second-degree shoulder separation.