Utah State football revving up for Blue vs. White Spring Game on Saturday
It's the biggest afternoon of the spring for Utah State football.
A few thousand fans will file into the stands at Romney Stadium for a 2 p.m. kickoff. More than 100 recruits and their parents will be on the sidelines. Alumni are back, and Aggies are looking for the first glimpse of what they have to look forward to in the fall.
It could be assumed that coach Matt Wells is looking for something particularly special in the Aggies' Blue vs. White Spring Game. It's true that the coaching staff wants excellence, but it's nothing he hasn't asked from his team in any of Utah State's 14 practices so far this spring.
"Gameday is a reflection of what you've done throughout the week," he said. "It's something we take very seriously around here. In spring ball, it's the same. You don't just turn up the juice and focus on the game, you have to do it all week long."
April finds Matt Wells and his program at a particularly high point. Wells just earned a new contract extension, signed a promising recruiting class in February, and he's coming off a first-year 9-5 season in which Utah State won a bowl game against a top-25 opponent.
But for most fans, this will be the first glimpse of Aggie football since that December game. The ones not physically present at Romney Stadium can tune in via online stream on the school's website. All are curious to see how the retooled team is going to compete in the fall. The coaching staff wants to show them the best of what the program has accomplished this spring.
Two units everyone will be watching closely are the offensive line and the secondary - areas that have been rebuilt after key graduations. Four new starters on the O-line and three in the defensive backfield will have to show they're ready to take on the increased responsibility.
"Same thing I've been looking for all spring, just see them take another step in front of a live crowd," Wells said. "I want to see clean execution and really good communication from those two groups in particular."
The Aggies have seen plenty of talent down the depth chart at linebacker and wide receiver this spring. Some of that should be on display as players such as Alex Huerta and Damoun Patterson get a chance to show what the practice buzz has been about.
As in 2013, the Aggies will run an offense vs. defense scoring system. The offense gets points for touchdowns, extra points, field goals and conversions, but also long gains and first downs. The defense gets points for touchdowns and safeties, but also turnovers, 3-and-outs, blocks and sacks. Under this format last year, the defense had 59 points to the offense's 39.
It'll be big as a recruiting event: Utah State has its junior day for the spring game, and the program could host as many as 150 prospects on Saturday. Among them will be a number of high-level recruits, including Salem Hills four-star LB/DE Porter Gustin, California four-star QB Tyler Hilinski, and American Fork three-star OL James Empey.
Other locals are expected to attend: Nate Heaps and Zach Katoa from American Fork, Taylorsville's Mufi Hunt, Alta's Quinn Fabrizio, and Sky View's Tyler Downs among many others.
With a recently built weight room on display, new gloves from Nike shipped in and a host of alumni who have gone on to the NFL in attendance, showing good football in the game itself would round out the experience for the Aggies.
"I think practice has been good this week, with guys being focused," Wells said. "We've got to finish this thing right. Hopefully we play at a really high level."
Here's a primer on the format for the game:
Two quarters of 10 minute running clock until the final two minutes. After a five-minute halftime, there will be two 15-minute quarters with regular clock rules.
Touchdown = 6 pts.Conversion = 1 or 2 pts.Field goal = 3 pts.Run of 15+ yards = 2 pts.
Pass of 20+ yards = 2 pts.
First Down = 1 pt.
Touchdown = 6 pts.Safety = 2 pts.Conversion = 1 or 2 pts.Turnover = 5 pts. 3-and-out = 3 pts.
Blocked FG = 3 pts.
Stopped drive, Sack, TFL = 2 pts.
In the final two minutes of the scrimmage, any offensive score if the offense trails by eight or more points will tie it. A defensive four-and-out will also tie the game if the defense trails by eight or more. In that event, the game will be decided by a two point conversion.
Kyle Goonkgoon@sltrib.comTwitter: @kylegoon