Las Vegas • Matt Wells said he knows his squad is close in terms of bouncing back from a last-place finish in the Mountain West's Mountain Division last season.
"I was disappointed in the way we finished last year," the Utah State football coach said Wednesday during the final day of the MW Media Summit at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. "It's disappointing and embarrassing when I talk about the record [3-9 overall, 1-7 MW]. What wasn't embarrassing was the way our kids fought and played.
"Last season hurt. You assess it and make some changes. We've done that and we worked hard not let that happen again. I think the resolve and competitiveness of our players will shine through this year."
The media didn't share Wells' optimism. It picked Utah State to finish last in the six-team MW Mountain Division.
One of the changes the Aggies want to make is playing better in close games. They were 0-5 in games decided by 11 points or fewer, and all of those games were in conference play.
Changes were made on offense as Wells hired David Yost as offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach. Senior quarterback Kent Myers, who has started 25 games and played in 28 in his Utah State career, likes the offense he will be running this season.
"We're gong to take what the defense gives us, but we're going to throw it a lot more and have a faster tempo," Myers said.
On a scale of 1 to 10 of being comfortable in the new offense, Myers said he's at a 9. Even though it's a new offense, Myers said it's one he's wanted to run while in college.
Myers feels he's at a point in his college career where he has a greater understanding of things like taking care of himself physically, game preparation and reading defenses.
Utah State's offense scored just under 24 points per game last season, and the defense allowed just under 30. Eight starters return this season, and the 2016 team dealt with its share of injuries on that side of the ball. Include senior safety Dallin Leavitt in that mix. The BYU transfer missed four conference games due to injury, but he started the other eight games he played in and is the Aggies' leading returner in tackles (57) and interceptions (three) from 2016.
"We have to put it together on the field," Leavitt said. "We are back to where we have that cohesiveness and team unity. Now we need the opportunity to put it on the field and show everybody we're back.
"The difference is going to be making a couple more plays down the stretch and finishing games."
The Aggies open fall camp Aug. 4. Their first game is Sept. 1 at Wisconsin.