Football Team To Open Spring Practice On Monday
March 19, 2005
LOGAN, Utah - First-year Utah State head coach Brent Guy and his staff will have their first opportunity to see this year's Aggies on the football field as USU begins Spring practice on Monday afternoon.
Guy, who was hired on December 10, has yet to see his team on the field. Only three members of the current coaching staff were with USU last year in defensive line coach Tom McMahon, cornerbacks coach John Rushing and running backs coach Chris Tabor.
"The guys are going to have to learn new systems and new terminology," Guy said. "As coaches we are going to have to learn our personnel. There will be a lot of position changes. On defense we are changing from a 3-4 to a 4-3 defense and on offense we will use multiple sets and that will cause us to make some changes in personnel. We will have to put our guys in the right positions to help us win."
USU's first two workouts will be non-padded practices on Monday and Tuesday. USU will put pads on for Wednesday and Friday practices during the first week.
The Aggies will not hold a Spring game this year and will conclude these workouts with a regular practice on Monday, April 18.
"We have three major goals for the Spring," Guy said. "We have to learn how to run the football. We have to be able to stop the run. We have to hold on to the ball on offense and create turnovers on defense. Those are the three areas statistically that were the most glaring and we need to straighten those out right now."
USU returns 13 starters from last year's 3-8 team, including five on offense, six on defense and two on special teams. In all the Aggies return 42 lettermen from a year ago.
USU's experience is found on the defensive side of the football as the Aggies have 10 players that have earned three letters, five more with two letters and eight with one letter earned. Offensively, only three players have earned more than one letter in backup quarterback Bryan Black, offensive lineman Malik Cin and tight end Jason Stephens, who all have two letters.
Among USU's returnees are sophomore wide receiver Kevin Robinson, who earned national and Sun Belt Conference honors as a freshman last year. Robinson finished secondin the nation in punt return average at 22.5 per return, while also leading the team in receiving with 44 catches for 602 yards and three touchdowns.
Defensively, USU will rely on veterans such as defensive ends John Chick and Michael Gates and a secondary which includes cornerback Cornelius Lamb and four safeties, who will battle for starting jobes in Joe Lindsay, Andre Bala, Antonio Taylor and Terrance Washington.
Lindsay and Bala return as starters from 2004 after injuries to Taylor and Washington. Lindsay recorded 49 tackles and forced two fumbles last year, while Bala was the team's second leading tackler with 64 stops.
Washington was a second-team freshman All-American in 2003 and had 18 tackles in the first two games last year before suffering a season-ending knee injury. Taylor played in seven games before being knocked out for the rest of the season. Depsite missing four games, he still recorded 47 tackles on the year to rank seventh on the team.
Chick led the team in tackles for loss last year with nine, while Gates had two tackles for loss among his 15 stops.
The Aggie offense lost two-year starting quarterback Travis Cox, who threw for 4,722 yards in his career. Leon Jackson III returns as the only current player to have attempted a pass last season as he was 26 of 46 for 404 yards as a freshman in 2004. He will compete with junior Bryan Black, redshirt Eric Sobelewski and freshman Jase McCormick.
"We don't have anybody who has started at quarterback," Guy said. "We will have to find out who will fill that position. Hopefully, that will take care of itself."
In addition to Robinson, Tony Pennyman will be a strong target for the Aggie quarterbacks. Pennyman was the team's second leading receiver last year with nearly identical numbers to Robinson with 43 catches for 598 yards and two touchdowns.
Up front the Aggies return three starters in tackles Donald Penn and Justin Schlimgen and center Brent DeLadurantey, who started the final four games of last season. However, only six offensive linemen on the roster have lettered for USU.
"Our biggest concern is the offensive line because of the numbers," Guy said. "We will look at any guys that can play those positions."
Utah State will enter its first season in the Western Athletic Conference this fall and will host six home games, including league matchups with 2004 champion Boise State and Louisiana Tech, which tied for third place, in Logan.