Utah State football held its ninth spring practice Thursday morning on Merlin Olsen Field at Maverik Stadium, and the specialists have been focusing on fundamentals, both individually and collectively.
“We have been working on a lot of fundamentals with the specialists this spring,” said sixth-year head coach Matt Wells. “With our units, we have been working on punt fundamentals, protection, our shield, punt return fundamentals, blocking techniques and kickoff cover, so it has been a lot of fundamentals.
“The rest of the spring will be about incorporating our kickoff return scheme and getting more live work in with our kickoff and kickoff return units.”
Utah State welcomes back two specialists who lettered during the 2017 season in senior P Aaron Dalton and junior PK Dominik Eberle. USU also returns two more players who appeared in games last season in sophomore placekickers Connor Coles and Michael Smith, while freshman LS Brandon Pada also returns after redshirting last year.
“Individually, Aaron Dalton has done a nice job this spring, and Dominik has had his best three practices in the past week,” added Wells.
Dalton has appeared in 38 games during his Utah State career, punting 210 times for 8,515 yards, which averages out to 40.5 yards per punt. During his career, he has had 27 punts of 50 or more yards, including a career long of 69. He has also had 72 punts downed inside the 20 yard-line and has only had 16 touchbacks.
During his junior season, Dalton averaged 42.0 yards on 76 punts, with 26 of those punts downed inside the 20-yard line. Furthermore, he had 10 punts of 50 or more yards last season and only nine of his punts were touchbacks.
Eberle, who was the team’s placekicker in all 13 games last season, earned third-team All-America honors from Phil Steele and was named an honorable mention All-American from SB Nation as he converted 18-of-24 (.750) field goals and made all 47 of his extra points en route to scoring 101 points, which are the second-most in a single season in school history for a kicker.
Eberle, who began the season by making his first eight field goals and 16 of his first 18 overall, also earned first-team all-Mountain West honors and was named a finalist for the Lou Groza Award, which is given annually to the top placekicker in college football.
“Overall, spring camp has gone well for the specialists,” said Eberle. “We are working together and trying to get better every single day. As for me, my goal is to convert 100 percent of my field goals, so that is what I am working toward.”
Utah State also welcomes four new specialists this spring in sophomore PK Taylor Hintze (Sandy, Utah/Alta HS/Weber State), freshman PK Ryan Gomer (Orem, Utah/Orem HS), freshman P Jackson Hansen (Beavercreek, Ohio/Beavercreek HS) and freshman LS Caleb Lawver (Millville, Utah/Ridgeline HS).
Utah State continues its spring schedule next week, practicing on Tuesday from 3:30-5:30 p.m., and then on Thursday from 6-8 a.m.
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.