Ever since being named head coach at Utah State in November, Dave Arslanian has been playing a waiting game. A long waiting game.
After watching John L. Smith coach the Aggies through the Humanitarian Bowl in December and watching from afar all winter, Arslanian will finally get to coach the Aggies beginning Monday when spring practice opens.The four-week Utah State spring practice begins on the Aggie practice field Monday and will continue until May 9 when the spring game will be played at Romney Stadium.
"We are excited to get started," said Arslanian. "I like what I've seen through the winter and I know the players are as anxious to begin as I am."
According to NCAA rules, football coaches aren't allowed to coach except during the designated month in the spring and during the football season. Arslanian has been able to keep an eye on his players weight training but really doesn't know what to expect until his players actually hit the field.
Arslanian said spring practice will be a time to get acquainted with the players and introduce the way he and his coaches do things. He said there won't be a lot of changes because of the similarities between his program and Smith's.
"Offensively, our principles are about the same since we come from the same offensive background," he said. "On defense, we are both attack-oriented."
Arslanian's biggest concern going into spring drills is replacing some of the top graduating seniors such as Big West defensive player of the year Ben Crosland, quarterback Matt Sauk, receivers Nakia Jenkins and Steve Smith and offensive linemen Brandon Dyson, Mark Rommel and Mauricio Jordan.
The only key player with eligibility that didn't return was running back Melvin Blue, who transferred to Cal State Northridge. However, all-Big West running back Demario Brown will return for his junior season after rushing for 971 yards despite missing three games with an injured knee.
One of the Arslanian's main chores will be finding a quarterback to replace two-year starter Matt Sauk. Brian Benza, who backed up Sauk last year, is the top candidate, but he'll be challenged by Riley Jensen, who transferred from BYU. Three others who will vie for the QB spot are sophomore Bryce Higbee and freshmen Jeff Crosbie and Logan Galli.
Most of the returning starters are on the defensive side including linemen Caleb Smith and Lindsay Hassell, linebacker Tony D'Amato and defensive backs Johndale Carty, Donald Dicko, Bashir Levingston and Vashon Garmon.
Another plus for the Aggies is the return of punter Jerry Arguello and placekicker Brad Bohn.
The Aggies will practice four times for four weeks with scrimmages held on April 25 and May 2.
The season starts Sept. 5 at home against Utah with non-conference games against Colorado, Washington, New Mexico and Oregon State on the schedule.