Utah State football: Veterans set pace at first practice
By Kyle Goon
The Salt Lake TribuneFirst published Aug 02 2013 06:14PM
Logan • There were some good things out of the newcomers at Utah State’s first fall practice on Friday afternoon, coach Matt Wells said. He was impressed that the Aggies’ freshmen and incoming transfers knew where to line up.
"I was proud of the newcomers for that, because they actually could make it look like football for a second," he said. "But it’s just the pace — they need to pick it up. And they will."
Utah State’s experienced players set the bar in the team’s brisk start to fall camp, albeit without pads. There was a clear gap in tempo between the veterans and those who are just putting on Aggies jerseys for the first time, and the team is expecting to see that gap close quickly.
"The new guys — they’re adjusting, let’s just say that," quarterback Chuckie Keeton said. "We did a lot of player-run practices over the summer, but at the same time, you don’t have the eyes of the head coach and your assistant coaches beating down on you at every single move you have."
And beat down, they did, as the coaches were pressing the newcomers to keep up with the returners.
On defense, linebackers Zach Vigil and Jake Doughty led by example, getting penetration into the pocket and forcing Keeton to scramble. Corners Nevin Lawson and Rashard Stewart put pressure on the Aggies receivers, at one time tipping up a pass that landed in linebacker Kyler Fackrell’s hands.
"I felt that, for being the first practice, everybody knew their assignments," Vigil said. "That’s the biggest part of playing fast, you have to know what you’re doing."
The Utah State offense finished off with a spirited attack, with Keeton tossing some completions to Travis Reynolds and Joe Hill in particular. But the unit understands they’ve got some catching up to do.
Still, it’s Day One. Although Wells expects his squad to keep up the effort, he said he was waiting for padded practice for further evaluation.
"We’re wearing helmets," he said. "So we’ll know more Monday."
Byrd makes a return
Cornerback Quinton Byrd had been hoping for a standout senior season in 2012, but it was cut short three games into the season with a season-ending injury.
Now, he finally gets a second chance.
Byrd said it was refreshing to return to the field for the first time in nearly a year. He had a few moments in the first session, highlighted by when he jumped a route and nearly intercepted a pass near the line of scrimmage.
"Man, it feels great," he said. "Hopefully this year, we can get it done, and I can be a part of it."