Aug. 1, 2013
LOGAN, Utah - Prior to beginning fall camp on Friday, Aug. 2, Utah State football players and coaches met with the media as the Aggies held their annual media day Thursday.
Utah State, who is picked to finish second in the Mountain Division of the Mountain West Conference this season, returns 49 lettermen (offense-23, defense-22, specialists-4) and 18 starters (offense-8, defense-7, specialists-3) from its most successful team in school history as USU ended the 2012 season with a school-best 11-2 record as it set school records for wins (11) and home wins (6), while recording just its second bowl win in school history with a 41-15 victory against Toledo in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. USU also won its first outright conference championship since 1936, as it went 6-0 in the Western Athletic Conference, and just its third in school history joining the 1921 and 1936 teams that both won Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference titles.
Utah State, who ended the 2012 season ranked No. 16 in the Associated Press Poll and No. 17 in the final ESPN/USA Today Coaches' Poll, is ranked 35th in the USA Today preseason coaches' poll that was announced Thursday after receiving 23 votes.
Utah State will open the 2013 season on Thursday, Aug. 29 at Utah and play its first Mountain West game the following weekend at Air Force on Saturday, Sept. 7. USU's first home game of the 2013 campaign will be on Saturday, Sept. 14 against Weber State, while its first home Mountain West game will be on Saturday, Oct. 12 against Boise State.
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Utah State Football Media Day Quotes From Head Coach Matt Wells:
"There's a lot of juice and a lot of energy in the building right now and it's pretty obvious why. It's great to be back because it's the start of ball. Like I said to our staff the other day, it doesn't matter if it's day one of junior high or day one of high school or college as a player or a coach, it's pretty cool to start back. Everybody gets their new gear and it's like Christmas. There's excitement and part of that excitement is because of the young men we've got coming back in the program. I think right now we have a bunch of very good individual players returning who have played a lot on Saturdays. Right now that's all they are. For the next few weeks, it's all about us. That's the process. We're teaching the process to our newcomers and young kids. It's respecting the process, and our veterans sharpening up their process. It's how we train mentally, physically and emotionally for the long haul of the season. I think that's exciting to just start the molding process of the 2013 edition of the Aggies.
"We're always about 'we.' It's 'we' in our program. We're not a bunch of individuals. I'm excited because of the vibe I feel from the leadership in the veteran players coming back. We challenged them to have a strong summer. They had an outstanding May from what strength coach (Dave) Scholz reported back to all of us. It will be exciting to see how that plays out on the field in the coming 29 practices before we start the season."
On creating the USU legacy for the players:
"I think that's an important process that we go about teaching the young men to play for the ones that have come before you, play for the ones that are with you know which is in the locker room, and to play for the ones who will come after you which are recruits. I think they have a sense of that. I think they got a little taste of that during the spring game when they looked down on the goal line and saw Phil Olsen standing next to Bobby Wagner. Connecting the past with the present is big to our staff. I think that's just an educational process for our young men."
On the state of the depth chart:
"I think the roles that need to be defined are offensive skill, where we're at with the running backs and how many of them are ready to play. When the bright lights go on, how many wide receivers and tight ends will we have. Those are the packages. Then defensively, who's going to come in at corner and safety and with all the substitution packages? We're very multiple on defense, with nickel and dime. Some of those young men, the newcomers and the veterans, we're going to play a lot of the best players that we can. A lot of those sub-packages with the skill kids are still roles to be defined."
On the season with the changes in staff and conference:
"I said this before. I think we can win every single game and I think we could probably lose every single game. There's a lot of parody in the conference and the league. I think we match up well with the non-conference teams. To have a special season go from good to great you have to stay healthy, you have to have great chemistry in the locker room and you've got to get a little lucky."
On not being "Gary Andersen's team:"
"Well since you mentioned it, I think he would tell you that it was that locker room. We all know that players make plays and players win games. The players that are in there are going to determine a lot of it, the health of them, the continuity of them, the chemistry of them. Fifty thousand people don't come to a game to see nine coaches and a head coach run up and down the sidelines."
On the USA Today preseason poll votes:
"It's great. More than anything it's a sign of earned respect from the past. Period. The past doesn't do anything for us right now. I said it just as with the Mountain West deal. It's really a sign of who we have coming back from an individual standpoint. It's our job as coaches and players to mold that into a great team. This is the greatest team sport ever invented. One kid or a couple of kids won't be able to carry us."
On preparing for the quarterbacks of the Mountain West:
"Really simply put, it's one of the best quarterback conferences in the country. You go top to bottom it's a really strong quarterback league. These are guys who have put up stats and have the talent and have a shot at the next level. When you listen to Senior Bowl people and scouts and coaches saying that, I wouldn't trade No. 16 (Chuckie Keeton) for any of them."
"I think it's an exciting challenge. It will be an exciting challenge for our defense and for our offense to score points. It's a team effort. It's no different than playing Louisiana Tech last year. Our defense did really well, but if we didn't show up on offense, that was going to be a struggle that night. It's such a team game that goes back and forth. We've got to play together; we've got to stick together. I think our kids have done a good job of buying into and understanding that."
On the incoming junior college kids:
"I think that's why you recruit them. They come in either to provide depth where you have a lack of numbers, or as a quality. We expect every one of those guys to come in and not participate, but to be significant contributors. Some could be a bit slower going into the conference, but I'm excited about watching all of them. Hopefully it will be similar results like what we had two years ago with that signing class."
On the coaching staff:
"It's been good. I think it's a great mix of veterans and youth, schematics, recruiters. I really like the mix. It's an energetic staff. It's a staff that has fully bought in to what we've done and respected it. We're a little bit outside the box and bent in some ways we train and go around this building. We recruit a little differently. They've come in and wrapped their arms around it, then added to it. As a staff you have to sit back and say yeah that fits, no that doesn't. It's a good mix. It's a blend. We're doing some things different than we did last year both internally and on the field. Some things fit and some things don't, but for the most part it's a lot of continuity."
On the dynamics of the experience of the team:
"I think the dynamics internally are a whole lot less significant than they are all around this table. You guys think it's a whole big difference, but it honestly hasn't been that much and let me explain why. The base nuts and bolts of what we've done - terminology and X's and O's - haven't changed much. The basis of the terminology of this offense and the defense is the same. Todd Orlando came in and learned our stuff, then added his on to it. We'll be a little bit different on defense. We'll be a little bit different on offense. Had we had the same two coordinators this year as we did last year, it would still be a little bit different. We're not going from four-down to three-down to an eight-man front. We're not going from huddle-up slow-down offense to spread, hurry-up tempo. We're very similar. I love the way it's evolved on both sides. Internally, for the guys that matter most, not much has changed. They haven't learned brand new playbooks every year."
On the emphasis of fall camp:
"That's part of the continuity. You have a lot of carry-over, but there's not a lot of brand new learning."
On(Chuckie Keeton his starting experience:
"It's definitely a luxury because he understands the process of preparing for a game. He understands travel, on the road, home crowds. He's got a long ways to go. I think he's only scratching his potential. He's got a long way to go to get to where he wants to be, which is really cool. He holds himself to a really high standard. I think he's the best quarterback in Cache Valley."
On the process of building his staff:
"It's just like when my wife was looking for a husband. I wasn't even close on her list. Take Todd Orlando for example. I'd competed against Todd when he was the defensive coordinator at Connecticut and I was at Louisville. We competed, but I didn't know him from a personal or professional standpoint. Dave Ungerer is the same way. I knew all the rest of them. They're guys that you have mutual friends with and cross paths with, and you're narrowing guys down who fit what you're looking for. Then you bring them in for an interview and mesh and gel with them and you go from there."
On Ungerer's plan for special teams:
"Dave will head up all four major units of the special teams. Our defensive staff handles the field goal block and our offensive staff handles the field goal, but he heads up all of it. He's the special teams coordinator. Basically everybody but coach (Kevin) McGiven and coach (Mark) Weber are all involved."
On Dave Kragthorpe's role with the team:
"It's really good for me personally and professionally to have him around. It's probably as equally good for our players. They enjoy being around him. It's another way to tie the past with the present, not only from an alumni standpoint, but for us internally as a coaching staff. His role is to help, support and to be around. He's at practice anyway. He's not in meetings and game planning, but it's a similar type of role that he had when we were at Tulsa and Louisville together. It's fun to have him around."
On what you are looking for from the wide receivers in camp:
"I think just consistent play. Who are the guys that are going to be consistent that define a role for themselves and then are able to fulfill that role. They define it and then we play them. If they are consistent and productive than they are going to play quite a bit. I have a feeling that we are going to play quite a few of them, and it will be a committee. I like their talent; they are very youthful in some spots, but I am excited about them. I feel better and better, especially because of the leadership at that position."
On the value of an experienced offensive line:
"I think it is really valuable when those guys are able to provide good play, but they also provide leadership. They provide a sense of comfort and strength. I think it is a position that you look at and go 'we are in good hands'. So, the challenge for us is to get those guys to sharpen their game up in certain areas, and we have identified those areas with each one of those kids. It is also a who's next mentality. That will be the question next year. Everyone is going to wonder about the offensive line and will we be able to rush for a yard next year. That is our job as coaches as we go through training camp and the season is to develop some of those backups to be valuable backups this year with the hopes that next year it will come a little smoother for them. Because inevitably next season is going to come for all of us and that is in the back of our minds too."
On what you tell the running backs about filling Kerwynn Williams's shoes:
"We didn't talk to Kerwynn (Williams) about filling Robert Turbin's shoes, not one bit. We talked about what Kerwynn can do to make Kerwynn better. We talk about what Joe (Hill) can do to make Joe better. We respect them for what they are and motivate them for what they can bring to our football team."
On the strength of the defensive backfield:
"Time will tell. We lost some guys back there; we lost some guys that played a lot in sub-packages, nickel and dime. There is going to be a lot of new faces. I like the youthful talent, but time will tell."
On the early play of freshman quarterback Darell Garretson and other backup quarterbacks:
"He has some moxie to him, that is what the players say about him. He is going to get thrown right in the mix, starting tomorrow. Right smack dab in the mix. That will be a rotational basis. I will go ahead and tell you so I don't have to answer it after every practice, don't read into the order. It is going to be on a rotational basis. A few plays here and a few plays there. I am sure we are going to start pairing it down as time goes, and then it will get really paired down toward the third and fourth week. That decision may not get made until the Thursday before the first game or right up until game time. I am not really sure. You are going to see that from drill to drill."
On Maurice Alexander's journey back:
"I am really happy with Maurice; proud of Maurice. Maurice paid his price for his punishment. He is back and has been welcomed back and has been nothing but great since January. He has taken care of his business in the classroom and off the field. On the field, he is a big talent. I think he is a kid that needs to define his role too and exactly where we are going to put him. He is a kid looking forward to his senior year and is on track to graduate in December."
On evaluation of opponents:
"It has been similar to what we did last summer. We carved out a plan as we were going into the new WAC, a new version of the WAC since there were so many new teams that we traveled to. So we carved out a plan last May and early June to look at those teams and get a sneak preview and an early plan. Just thoughts in a manila folder and we did that again this year to familiarize us with schematics and a little bit of personnel, to learn who is not coming back. You watch the USC game and learn who isn't coming back and think thank goodness he isn't coming back and all those kind of things. We did the same thing last year, so honestly it was really that new."
On how often you talked to"Gary Andersen over the summer:
"Quite a bit. Gary is a great mentor to me. Shoot, he still loves these kids and this program, so I don't know the number, but quite a bit. He wants to see this place be successful. He has a son in this program. He recruited a lot of these guys and coaches. He has an investment and that hasn't changed."
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