Logan • Typically when a group of college-aged men returning from spring break, the average parent may fear the worst.
That may have crossed Matt Wells' mind before Tuesday's brisk morning practice at Romney Stadium, but afterward, Utah State's head coach was positive about how his team showed up for the first live action of the spring.
"Changed the order of practice at the beginning, and I thought they responded really well," he said. "It was a really good day coming off of spring break - better than last year at this time. I thought the kids were energized, enthusiastic."
For the first time this March, players were in full-on tackle mode. That led to teeth-chattering breakups on more than a handful of plays, particularly at the end of team drills when the defense won in first, second and third groups, forcing the offense into updowns to end the afternoon session.
Plays such as Jarom Baldomero blowing up a run, or Devin Centers leveling Hayden Weichers at the end of red zone drills got defenders eager for Friday's first spring scrimmage.
"I think there's just a big difference going live and turning that switch on," Kyler Fackrell said. "The defense loves to go live."
That doesn't mean the offense was without its own victories. In the red zone drill, the battle looked more one-sided in that direction as Darell Garretson threw a corner end zone pass to a wide-open Weichers, and Braelon Roberts also pulled down a touchdown from Craig Harrison.
The message to Wells was clear: Work to be done for both sides.
"Defense completely won the third down drill: 2-for-9 offensively, 7-for-9 defensively," he said. "Completely won groups one, two and three. But the offense drilled them in the red zone competition. Good things to teach off of and learn off of. It was good give and take."
While the experience at the top of the depth chart is solid, the Aggies are looking for some of the other linebackers to step into bigger roles - or at least show they're capable of taking on more.
New position coach Joe Lorig mentioned La'Bradford Harold, Chase Christiansen and Baldomero as some of the players he thinks could develop into defensive role players while also being important special teams contributors.
Wells echoed that sentiment.
"It's important to develop depth at all positions, particularly linebacker because they play a big part in special teams," Wells said. "They have to create a role on defense first and be able to help on special teams. That depth will be greatly added to this summer when some young men walk on campus."
Weichers and Roberts making touchdown catches on Tuesday helped hammer in an early theme of spring practice: The younger crop of receivers appears to be developing well and making plays early.
While each also had at least one pass broken up Tuesday morning, their promise has been on display. Weichers is a sure-handed, speedy slot guy, while Roberts' height makes him an ideal one-on-one matchup.
Still, Wells was measured in his post-practice comments.
"I think they're making progress," he said. "I've been happy with what they've done in four days. But there's a lot of stuff to go. They're young and eager to learn. That's what they have to do when the plays are presented to them: They have to make those plays."
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