Utah State football: Aggies have long haul in mind
Logan • The Utah State Aggies are so optimistic they will play 15 games this season, they are preparing like it, or, more accurately, recovering like it.
Utah State coach Matt Wells is tracking the Aggies' practice hours more than ever this year as the Aggies toe the line between working hard and over doing things. The last thing Wells wants is for his team to go into the stretch run of league games burnt out and over-worked, so the Aggies were careful in the summer and now as to how much demand is being put on the players.
Utah State's only bye this year is Sept. 27. After that, the Aggies play five of their last nine games on the road, including pivotal games at CSU and Boise State, plus a long road trip to Hawaii.
The Aggies hope they emerge as the victors and play in the Dec. 6 MWC title game, plus a bowl game too.
That is a long haul of a season, one in which Wells wants his team to remain fresh.
"We know that reps accumulate," Wells said. "It's getting your guys to the fight and making sure they're fresh, rested and well-trained. It's a fine line and it's a combination of how physical and non-physical you can be. We've done a little bit of adjusting in anticipating a longer year with fewer breaks."
Wells said the Aggies didn't take full advantage of a new NCAA rule that allowed coaches to enforce mandatory workouts for student-athletes who were enrolled in summer school. The rules allowed for eight hours a week with up to two hours being film sessions with coaches while the rest were strength and conditioning sessions.
The Aggies used about an hour of meeting time a week at the start of summer workouts and at the end. Most of the attention was given to the new players, Wells said, as he was mindful of the overall work load.
He preferred to allow his senior players and leaders to lead the majority of the workouts so the players could have a break from the coaches.
"I'm a little bit old school," he said. "I like to let the guys that are experienced and have been here for a while to lead those meeting rooms on a volunteer basis."
Aggie fans shouldn't worry their team took it too easy, sophomore offensive lineman Jake Simonich said summer was anything but a break for the players.
"It was a grind," he said. "We were definitely working hard every day."
Offensive lineman Kevin Whimpey is sporting a new look this year as the senior has a substantial beard. Whimpey joked that the original plan was for the whole offensive line to sport beards.
"But we don't have five guys who can grow a beard," he said, in reference to the youth of the offensive line. "I got stuck with it."
Whimpey said he was going to keep the beard as long as his wife, Shaylee, will allow him.
"I don't know how long I can keep it," he said. "She tells me I look ugly."
Ahead of the game
With Chuckie Keeton and Joe Hill returning, Wells is optimistic the offense is making bigger advances than it has in past years.
"We are more organized from drill to drill," he said. "We have a good team. I'm not sure we have a great team."
Whose streak continued • Devin Centers intercepted a pass, giving him four picks in the past three practices.
Who gets props • Ronald Butler threw a great block to key a 45-yard touchdown run by Chuckie Keeton.
Up next • The Aggies practice for the first time in pads on Saturday at 9:15 a.m. at Romney Stadium.