Utah State football Media Day extra notes and quotes
Today, I'm adding a few more notes and quotes from Utah State football's media day. Just so you're keeping up, fall camp starts today at 2:15 p.m. at the practice field, and all sessions are open.
Here's what the Aggies are thinking about ahead of the season:
• They love their new summer routine. Talking to 10 players yesterday, the Aggies endorsed their new weight room and offseason conditioning and nutrition, directed by strength coach Dave Scholz. Systematically, they've cut out a lot of their carbs and subsisted on a high protein and veggie diet. That newfound discipline, combined with a strength and conditioning center with a bunch of new toys and racks, has helped many feel stronger and more energy.
"Whether it's people just coming in or people who have been here for five years, they're able to gain weight and keep on weight, which is something I've worked on for a long time," safety Brian Suite said. "That's what's helped the most in my opinion."
That doesn't mean that they don't miss some of the food they used to eat. Defensive end Connor Williams said he missed sushi most of all.
"White rice, man," he said. "It's a killer."
• They can't wait to play Utah. If you're looking for an invigorating start to the season, you can't do much better than a road game against an in-state rival that you beat last year.
At least that's how many of the Aggies feel about the Aug. 29 opener against the Utes. After last year's 27-20 win over Utah in overtime, several players said they're anxious to prove that it wasn't a fluke victory. The phrase, "We're not little brother anymore" came up a handful of times.
For many players, it's also personal. Tight end D.J. Tialavea, who hails from West Jordan, said he's anxious to play his best in Salt Lake City.
"There's no better way to start it than with a W at Salt Lake," he said. "That's my town, man. We've got to show off what we've worked so hard for."
• Expect big things out of the running back position. Most of the team is after seeing what some of the backs have done in the offseason to get themselves into game shape.
Matt Wells said he expects to see Joe Hill, the Aggies' speedy successor to Kerwynn Williams, take more than half the carries this fall. He's a quick, elusive back with good hands, and he's worked on his blocking to make himself more well-rounded while adding 10 pounds to his frame.
"I just want to be the best I can be," Hill said. "The guys before me have made the blueprint, and I want to follow it but I'm doing it my own way. ... I want to show people that I have some power, I can go break tackles and I have a high motor."
Wells said he's looking for the depth at running back to establish itself, and many Aggies have seen encouraging signs. Kelvin Lee and incoming transfer Rashad Hall are listed on the depth chart, but Rob Marshall and Karris Johnson hope to have a good fall camp. And Joey DeMartino? Some think he could be the biggest surprise in the next few weeks.
"Joey has made a huge transformation, and maybe I'm biased because I personally worked out with him in the weight room," Tialavea said. "I've seen how he treats himself. I think last spring game we saw what he can do. He's ready to go to the next level."
• The secondary is getting up to speed mentally. Two critical returners, Nevin Lawson and Brian Suite, are helping the two new listed starters, Tay Glover-Wright and Mo Alexander, get acquainted with their new roles.
Glover-Wright and Alexander both have experience, but at different positions: Alexander was a linebacker in his previous stint with Utah State, and Glover-Wright has played on both sides of the ball at various times. Both are still working to get up to carve out their roles, but there's definitely promise.
"If you combine me and Mo, you have a pretty good secondary," Suite said. "Me with my knowledge of the scheme, and Mo who has NFL potential with his strength and size and speed. He's pushing me to get stronger and faster and be more technical."
Glover-Wright said he knows the defensive backs will have to keep working on generating turnovers, an area where they could've done better this spring. He said the secondary has dedicated a lot of time to ball drills this summer.
"It's amazing how much better all of us have gotten," he said. "When we do individual practice, we put in extra work to focus and perfect our craft."
• Matt Wells is listening to some experienced hands. He took the top job in Logan with a reputation as a man who could listen to better learn his way. Wells talked about that on Thursday, particularly about bringing former coach and athletic director Dave Kragthorpe on the staff.
"It's really good for me personally and professionally to have him around," Wells said. "It's probably as equally good for our players. They enjoy being around him. It's another way to tie the past with the present, not only from an alumni standpoint, but for us internally as a coaching staff."
Also, a thousand miles or so hasn't separated Wells from Gary Andersen, who he said remains "a great mentor to me." The two keep in contact by phone and text, mostly, and Wells said Andersen is eager to see how the Aggies do this year. He wants them to do well.
"He has a son in this program," Wells said, as a reminder of tight end Keegan Andersen. "He recruited a lot of these guys - and coaches. He has an investment and that hasn't changed."
Some quick hitters:
• Wells cautioned against speculating too deeply into the backup quarterback competition. He'll be rotating Craig Harrison, Jeff Manning, Jordan Brown and Darell Garretson in reps. Even the freshman, Garretson, will have a shot to be the No. 2 guy, Wells said: " He has some moxie to him, that is what the players say about him. He is going to get thrown right in the mix, starting tomorrow. Right smack dab in the mix."
• Utah State is definitely familiar with the new targeting enforcement this fall that will eject players for certain kinds of hits (I wrote about it earlier this week). Linebacker Kyler Fackrell said that the coaches and the spring game officials talked to them about the changes. But he added that he wasn't sure exactly what defenders could really change besides aiming lower on tackles: "I think for the most part, what can you do? You still gonna play the fundamentals. If they call it, it is what it is."
• One of the camp priorities is identifying depth at offensive line. Tackle Eric Schultz said the line group as a whole is looking improved from spring, but said he thought Bill Vavau and Jake Simonich are establishing themselves as future anchors on the line: "All of them are progressing, but those two guys in particular are working hard."
• You're not going to be able to recognize Nevin Lawson by the dreadlocks hanging from under his helmet anymore. The four-year starting corner said he's cut them as a reminder to "be professional and focus on my senior year. It's humbling that this is my last go-around, and I just want to tell myself it's a new journey."
Kyle Goonkgoon@sltrib.comTwitter: @kylegoon
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