Logan • It goes against every instinct he has as a defender, even as a football player, but when B.J. Larsen sees the red jersey, he knows he has to stop short.
The junior defensive end was mere inches away from eating freshman quarterback Darell Garretson alive in the backfield. Just his presence there is enough to show how fearsome the defensive line can be.
“Obviously we want to practice hard, but you want to practice smart as well,” he said. “Pulling up … is kind of hard. It’s a defensive lineman’s dream. But you’ve got to keep them healthy.”
The line returns some of the most experience on the team, with all-WAC returnees Connor Williams and Jordan Nielsen, as well as Larsen and Paul Pikula also playing end. But with no contact for Utah State’s quarterbacks, they’ve been pulling their punches.
Still, the front line of the defense has shown in fall camp how they can cause chaos already. The offensive line has to deal with the unit’s constant adjustments and tweaks before the snap.
“Going against our defense is one of the hardest challenges we’ll see all year,” guard Jamie Markosian said. “They bring one of the most difficult fronts and looks. Being able to target all that stuff is crucial for our future success.”
Larsen and Williams are the listed starters at end, but line coach Frank Maile said he sees the top two at each position on the depth chart as interchangeable parts. No matter who is in among the foursome, they can create pressure off the edge, and that’s the way he likes it.
They like it, too.
“The way [Maile] expects us to play 100 miles an hour all the time, and in order to do that, we need a rotation,” Williams said. “All of us are starters. There’s just one group of guys, and we’re all responsible.”
Aggies bounce back from “sluggish” start
In Utah State’s first two-a-day session, coaches were steaming after what coach Matt Wells called a sluggish practice.
They told the players they lacked focus — not so delicately, either. The players responded in the afternoon session, which was moved indoors due to inclement weather.
“[It wasn’t] a waste and not bad, but not to the expectation level we have for these kids,” Wells said. “I thought this evening they came back extremely focused. It was crisp, and there was better execution on both sides of the ball.”
The running back group got the worst of the ear-chewing Thursday morning. Joey DeMartino said it called the team to order.
“We didn’t have a good attitude, and our body language was really flat,” he said. “Basically we just had to say, ‘Hey, we’re in our season. We have to get right.’ I’m glad everybody came in to the next practice wanting to go harder.”
Rashard Stewart went 2 for 2 with interceptions in his two practices on Tuesday. The junior corner caught a tip pass in the morning, then dove for a low throw in the afternoon. … The wind picking up at the beginning of evening session offered the special teams an opportunity to kick in adverse conditions. Wells said he was pleased with Nick Diaz’s offerings before the team moved inside.