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Tom Smart, Deseret News
USU quarterback Chuckie Keeton during Utah State's football practice on Aug. 5, 2014, in Logan.

Utah State's football team held its first official practice of the 2014 season Tuesday afternoon as 102 players participated in the two-hour workout on the USU practice fields. Among the group were 14 returning starters and 38 returning, including 19 seniors.

After the players worked out in helmets, practice jerseys and shorts, second-year Aggie head coach Matt Wells said he was pleased with the team's energy and effort on the first day.

“We are a lot further ahead than we were last year,” Wells said. “We are more organized from drill to drill. I think we’ve got a good team, not sure if we’ve got a great team yet. I like the enthusiasm. We’ve got a lot of new bodies. There’s a lot of attrition in college football and it’s exciting. I’m not going to make any big, bold, blanket statements. We’ll see at the end of the week. We’re in t-shirts and shorts today, but it’s a good start and I’m excited about this team.”

Wells said he was also pleased with how senior quarterback Chuckie Keeton and senior running back Joe Hill looked in their first live action in 10 months following knee surgeries last October.

“I thought Chuckie looked good and I thought he looked sharp," Wells said. "He changed protection about 10 times and I think he’s taken a step ahead in the protections and a lot of the things he does. That was my big deal for these guys, mastering the little things that take no talent. He is really close to mastering those. You can just see there’s another aura of confidence in that offense.

“I thought Joe moved around well too. He caught the ball well and that’s typical Joe Hill. I saw him make a few cuts and accelerate and thought he did a good job today.”

Tuesday was the first of 29 practices for Utah State leading up to its season opener at Tennessee on Sunday, Aug. 31 at 5 p.m. MT.

As part of the NCAA's five-day “acclimatization period”, the Aggies will again be in shorts and helmets Wednesday and will add shoulder pads Thursday and Friday. USU's first practice in full pads is Saturday, Aug. 9, and the first two-a-day is scheduled for Monday, Aug. 11. USU’s first scrimmage will be on Merlin Olsen Field at Romney Stadium on Tuesday, Aug. 12 at 6 p.m.

Utah State opens the 2014 season on Sunday, Aug. 31, at Tennessee and plays its first home game the following weekend against Idaho State on Saturday, Sept. 6 at 6 p.m. USU's first Mountain West game will be at home against Air Force on Saturday, Oct. 11, and the Aggies will conclude the regular season at MW foe Boise State on Saturday, Nov. 29. The Mountain West Championship game will be held on Saturday, Dec. 6, at the home stadium of the divisional champion with the highest College Football Playoff Committee ranking.

All practices during fall camp, which concludes Saturday, Aug. 23, are open to the public.

Doug Hoffman is the associate athletic director for Utah State University Athletic Media Relations.