As wonderful as Utah State's indoor complex is, nothing quite replicates the feeling of being on the field.
More space. More excitement. A sense of what game day might feel like come fall.
It was refreshing to get out from under a ceiling, coach Matt Wells said after the football team's first outdoor practice on Wednesday.
"It was good energy," he said. "That'll happen when you get out there."
The culmination of Wednesday's practice was red zone drills, and the defense did well again. Wells said he was impressed by how the unit operated from first through second team, and came away feeling the battle in the trenches was key.
"The defensive line was dominant at times," Wells said. "We were a little bit sporadic on the offensive line. They did well early in the day but were more inconsistent in the scrimmage. The defense played well pretty much all the way around. They held tight and forced field goals, and that's their job."
Wells said he thought it was a good all-around showing, but added that linebacker Kyler Fackrell stood out for how he set the edge on defense. The returning all-WAC sophomore showed his playmaking ability, which has been an emphasis in the entire defense early under new coordinator Todd Orlando.
"I think [the defense] is really conscientious about it," Wells said. "There's been more opportunities to create turnovers and force turnovers. In the secondary, there's good leadership. ... But it's early to tell if that's going to be what we see on Saturdays."
Being outside also gave the coaching staff a chance to see punters and kickers work in an unconstrained environment. Wells said he also appreciated seeing potential returners work off of live kicks in practice, though there is still no decision yet on who the returners will be.
Thursday marks the Aggies' first scrimmage, one of the first true tests of spring with players getting repeated reps under game conditions.
"They're a confident bunch, and they know how to work," Wells said. "The biggest thing I want to see is a crisp, clean job between the [first string], guys making tackles in open space, and guys who can be consistent possession after possession."
Kyle Goonkgoon@sltrib.comTwitter: @kylegoon