Utah State football: Excitement surrounds Aggies’ spring practice
USU football • Team has holes to fill, but looks to build on ’11 success.
Published: March 26, 2012 09:50AM
Updated: March 27, 2012 12:07AM
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Chris Detrick | The Salt Lake Tribune Utah State Aggies wide receiver Matt Austin (4) can't make a catch past Nevada Wolf Pack defensive back Isaiah Frey (28) during the first half of the game at Romney Stadium Saturday November 26, 2011. Nevada is winning the game 10-7.

Logan • Matt Austin is sensing a different level of intrigue, one he hasn’t experienced in his time as Utah State’s most physical wide receiver.

The people of Logan have always been interested in Aggie football, especially since coach Gary Andersen took over a little more than three years ago. But the interest this season and the thirst for spring football has hit a fever pitch, after the Aggies last season earned their first bowl berth in 11 years.

“Everywhere I go, people are telling me that they can’t wait for it to start,” Austin said. “I can’t wait, either. We have some lofty goals this year. We think we can be a really good team.”

USU’s spring practice starts on Tuesday morning, and it will culminate in the spring game at the end of April. For the Aggies, answering several questions about a roster that lost two likely NFL draft picks in Robert Turbin and Bobby Wagner will be a key.

For instance: Who plays quarterback? Andersen all but announced sophomore Chuckie Keeton as his starter following Utah State’s loss to Ohio to end last season. But all indications are that Keeton and senior Adam Kennedy are locked in a battle for the job.

The Aggies have other goals for spring, too, including maintaining continuity on the offensive line, finding depth at running back behind senior Kerwynn Williams, finding defensive backfield help, and identifying starters at linebacker — which is still a deep and talented position even with Wagner gone.

“We’re in an exciting spot,” Andersen said. “We’re in a good spot, but we’re excited to get the kids on the football field. It’s been a long winter. I purposely wanted spring practice to start late because I wanted the kids to get more time in the weight room.”

For Utah State, much will be new. Matt Wells takes over as offensive coordinator, replacing Dave Baldwin, who left for the same position at Colorado State. With Wells, the Aggies will employ much more of a spread offense, rather than the run-oriented one that was successful in spurts and frustrating at other times under Baldwin.

There also will be a new defensive coordinator, as Dave Aranda brings his aggressive style from Hawaii.

“This is going to give me a chance to really evaluate the direction of the program,” Andersen said. “Last year I was heavily involved with the defense, and I didn’t get to see everything. Now, I have the opportunity to oversee the entire football team.”

USU’s strengths, heading into the spring, figure to be at quarterback, where Keeton and Kennedy are two of the better quarterbacks in the Western Athletic Conference. Wide receiver is also a major strength, as well as linebacker and cornerback.

tjones@sltrib.com