Dougal Brownlie, AP
Utah State wide receiver Aaren Vaughns, left, runs the ball for a touchdown against Air Force during an NCAA college football game at Air Force Academy, Colo., Saturday, Nov. 25, 2017. (Dougal Brownlie/The Gazette via AP)

Utah State football held its third spring practice Tuesday morning in the Stan Laub Indoor Complex, and the defensive line has performed well as it brings a lot of depth and talent to the field.

Overall, Utah State returns all three of its starters as part of nine letterwinners along the defensive line that have combined to play in 155 games with 36 starts during their USU careers.

“We’ve got a lot of depth, so that is good news,” said third-year co-defensive coordinator and defensive line coach Frank Maile. “I’ve told the guys everything is open and we don’t have any starters right now. It has been competitive, and will continue to be competitive, as we move forward this spring and figure out who is who. But, I’m excited, because we have a lot of talent up front.

“We have to stop the run and be a factor in the pass rush; that is our top priority this spring. We have to disrupt the quarterback.”

Utah State will have plenty of bodies to stop the run and pressure the quarterback moving forward as it returns 13 defensive linemen who were members of the program during the 2017 season, including all three of its starters in senior DE Adewale Adeoye, junior DE Devon Anderson and junior NG Christopher ‘Unga. Other letterwinners returning include senior NG Gasetoto Schuster, junior NG Mohelika Uasike, junior DE Jacoby Wildman, sophomore NG Ritisoni Fata, sophomore DE Logan Lee and sophomore DE Nami Tuitu’u.

“Today was our first day with pads and really our first chance to show what we have, but spring camp has gone well so far,” said ‘Unga. “As a D-line, we are just trying to take a step forward, whether that be in our technique or our conditioning. We are just trying to take that next step.”

Utah State also welcomes back four more players who were on the team last year but did not play in junior transfer Fua Leilua (Spanish Fork, Utah/Oklahoma State), along with sophomores Caden Andersen, Jake Pitcher and Keith Tambe, who are all defensive ends.

Schuster has the most returning game experience for Utah State as he has played in 33 career games with five starts, while Wildman has played in 24 career games with four starts and Uasike has played in 22 career games with three starts. Adeoye has appeared in 20 career games with seven starts, ‘Unga has played in 16 career games and made seven starts and Anderson played in 12 games and made five starts a year ago. Furthermore, Tuitu’u played in 12 games last season, while Lee played in eight games with three starts. Fata played in eight games with two starts, while Pitcher appeared in one game in 2017.

Furthermore, Utah State’s defensive line added another player who has made four starts and played in 21 career games at linebacker for the Aggies in junior Dalton Baker.

“I like where we are right now, and their mentality is exactly where I want it to be. They are competitive, and they are playing physical and fast. We just have to keep them going in the right direction,” added Maile.

Utah State continues spring practice on Thursday, before taking next week off for spring break. USU will then return to the practice field on Tuesday, March 13, for the first of three practices that week, culminating with its first scrimmage of the spring on Friday, March 16.

During the five-week period, the Aggies will participate in 15 spring practice sessions, including their annual Blue vs. White Spring Game on Saturday, April 7, on Merlin Olsen Field at Maverik Stadium at 2 p.m.

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