Utah State football wrapped up its first week of spring drills with a Thursday morning practice, its fourth of the week, as the Aggies continue to build toward the 2018 season.

Overall, sixth-year head coach Matt Wells is pleased with how the first week of spring practice went.

“I thought the first three days were really good and we played with high intensity and juice, and then I thought today’s practice, practice four, was just OK,” said Wells. “We’ve got to be able to push through a lot of soreness and being tired, and we will.”

As Utah State prepares for the 2018 season, it returns 18 starters as part of 51 letterwinners from last year's team that tied for fourth place in the Mountain Division of the Mountain West with a 4-4 record and finished its season at 6-7 after playing in the NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl. Overall, it was USU's sixth bowl game in the past seven seasons and the 12th in school history.

The 18 returning starters for Utah State are tied with the 2007 team for the most in school history, while the 51 returning letterwinners are the most ever at USU, bettering the 49 in 2013.

Furthermore, Utah State also returns its offensive coordinator, David Yost, for the first time since the 2014 season, which has led to more retention and higher expectations on that side of the ball.

“It’s nice having coach Yost back, and year two in this offense should be a lot better than year one. With the O-linemen we have back, the returning quarterback, a couple of wide outs and a couple of tight ends back, we should be further ahead and we are further ahead. We are in better shape, too, as they continue to understand the pace and tempo of this offense,” added Wells.

Defensively, Utah State has two new coaches as Keith Patterson was hired as the defensive coordinator and safeties coach, while Uani Unga was hired as USU’s new 10th assistant to coach outside linebackers after spending the 2017 season as a defensive administrative assistant.

“The biggest thing that coach Patterson brings is a fresh perspective in how they are installing things, and how they are going to define goals, meet goals and push kids to their limits,” said Wells. “The biggest thing we struggled with at the end of last year was stopping the run and running the ball when we had to do it. That is a big emphasis this spring.”

When asked if there was a group that has exceeded his expectations thus far this spring, Wells was quick to identify the outside linebackers.

Utah State will take next week off for spring break and return to the practice field on Tuesday, March 13, for its first of three practices that week, culminating with its first scrimmage of the spring on Friday, March 16.

“We have to come back and set a tempo and expectation of how we are going to practice, and it’s got to be a very physical Tuesday practice when we get back,” Wells said.

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.