Year 4 of the Brent Guy era at Utah State opens today with as many questions as have been answered during his first three years with the Aggies.

For starters: Is USU really going to be the worst football team in the Western Athletic Conference, as was predicted by both the media and coaches?

Next up: With nine starters back on defense, will the Aggies do better than the 33.8 points per game they allowed in 2007?

Third: Can the Aggies — without their top offensive weapon, their best offensive lineman and virtually no experience at quarterback — improve on the woeful 20.6 points scored per game?

And finally: Will Guy be around for the fifth and final year of his contract in 2009?

"That's something I can't worry about," Guy said as he prepared for the 2008 season, which officially opens today at 10 a.m. with the first practice. "We were a better football team last year than the year before. We just want to keep making progress."

The Aggies, just 2-10 a year ago, point to their competitiveness in football games. Though they lost four of them and that sent the season on a 10-game tailspin, USU held fourth-quarter leads in six games. They also won the final two games of the season, and Guy said that indicates his team learned something about not quitting, playing hard and finishing strong.

"We gave ourselves something to build on," Guy said. "That's something we haven't always had. So we've got some confidence and we'll just have to go with that."

Another thing Utah State is pleased with is depth. After beginning with only 56 players — including only seven offensive linemen — Guy now has a full roster of 85 scholarship athletes as well as a handful of walk-ons. Filling out a three-deep is no longer a challenge.

"The difference is huge," USU linebacker Jake Hutton said. "Just they way we can practice and have someone in every position makes it easier and better."

With Leon Jackson III gone, USU will have stiff competition for the open quarterback position. Sean Setzer, Jace McCormick and Diondre Borel are expected to challenge each other for the position, but a youngster such as freshmen Ben Longshore or Exavier Johnson may push the upperclassmen for playing time.

Challenging for a WAC championship would be a luxury. A more realistic goal this year is to continue making progress — one win in 2006, two wins in 2007 and — Aggie fans desperately hope — more in 2008.

"It's a really good feeling having all these returners because our veterans have experience," Guy said. "Even though we haven't won a lot of games, these guys know what happened when we've been successful and won games, and I think we understand a lot better conceptually that even if you're not a starter, you can have a huge impact on a game."

After today's practice, the Aggies will continue hitting the field until a scrimmage set for next Saturday. The first day of practicing in full pads is set for Wednesday.

USU opens the season at UNLV on Aug. 30.


E-mail: jeborn@desnews.com