OGDEN — These are the days Ron McBride lives for.

The Weber State coach has been around football for a long, long time. But when players report for the opening day of spring practices, he's at home.

"It's my favorite time of year," McBride said on the eve of the Wildcats' first spring practice. "Anytime you can get back on the football field, it's a good day."

The Wildcats are especially eager to get out there and pound a few more nails in the rebuilding project McBride began three springs ago. After finishing the 2007 season at 5-6, WSU returns eight offensive starters, six defensive starters and a load of young talent.

Junior running back Trevyn Smith, however, is not one of those returning vets that will be on the field this spring. The two-time Big Sky rushing champ played most of last season with an injured shoulder and had off-season surgery to repair the joint. He'll be an interested observer rather than a participant.

"I'm excited to get out there and see the level of development of the guys, especially the skills guys," McBride said. "We've got some guys coming back that I think are going to be really good."

Quarterback Cameron Higgins, the Big Sky freshman of the year last season, will be back under center, and McBride said he is pleased with the athletes he'll be getting the ball to. Of concern, however, is who will step in to replace all-conference linemen David Hale and Dmitri Tsoumpos.

The Wildcats will take the field today at 2 p.m. and practice every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday until the annual spring game on April 19.

E-mail: jeborn@desnews.com