LOGAN, Utah -
Prior to beginning fall camp on Friday, Utah State football players and coaches met with the media on Thursday as the Aggies held their annual media day at the Laub Complex.
Utah State welcomes back 14 starters (O-6, D-8) and 38 letterwinners (O-16, D-20, S-2) from last year's squad that lost five conference games by a combined 29 points (5.8 ppg).
Among those returning in 2017 include senior quarterback Kent Myers, who earned honorable mention all-MW honors as a sophomore in 2015. Overall, the native of Rowlett, Texas, has played in 28 games in his Utah State career with 25 starts, and ranks fourth all-time in school history in completion percentage (.605), sixth all-time in total offense (5,963 yards), tied for eighth all-time with 31 career touchdown passes, and ninth all-time in career passing yards (4,848), career completions (411) and career pass attempts (679).
Furthermore, Myers has rushed for 1,115 yards on 257 carries (4.4 ypc) during his career and ranks 25th all-time in school history in career rushing yards, including third all-time among quarterbacks. He also has a career interception percentage of just 0.021, which ranks first all-time in school history, with his 14 interceptions on 679 career attempts.
Highlighting Utah State's defensive returners is senior cornerback Jalen Davis, who has started all 36 games he has played in during his Aggie career. In all, Davis ranks first among all active USU players in tackles (147), tackles for loss (12.0), sacks (4.0), interceptions (6), pass breakups (21) and forced fumbles (3).
Both Davis and Myers met with the media on Thursday, as did fifth-year head coach Matt Wells. A complete transcript of their press conferences can be found below.
Utah State will begin the 2017 season at Wisconsin on Friday, Sept. 1, at 7 p.m. (MT), in a game that will be televised nationally on ESPN. The Aggies' home opener will be on Thursday, Sept. 7, against Idaho State at 6 p.m., while their Mountain West opener will be at San José State on Saturday, Sept. 23.
For ticket information, fans can contact the USU Athletics Ticket Office over the phone by calling 1-888-USTATE-1 or 435-797-0305 during regular hours of operation. Fans can also buy their tickets in person at the USU Ticket Office inside the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum or online by clicking on the "Buy Tickets" tab at www.UtahStateAggies.com.
Fans can become season ticket holders for as low as $110. New for 2017 are Value Season Ticket Plans, which include four adult season tickets on the east side of the stadium starting at $450. Youth season tickets are available for just $60 and Family Plans, consisting of two adult tickets and three youth tickets, can be purchased for as low as $340.
Fans can follow the Aggie football program at twitter.com/USUFootball. Aggie fans can also follow the Utah State athletic program at twitter.com/USUAthletics or on Facebook at Utah State University Athletics.
Utah State Football Media Day Quotes From Head Coach Matt Wells:
"The start of training camp is exciting for every coach on our staff and in America. This will be a fun training camp, and it's going to be a very, very competitive training camp. We're going to continue some of the things we started in the spring in terms of practice tempo and practice structure in more competitive situations. We're about to go into our fourth quarter, which is training camp for us. But it's three quarters from a leadership standpoint, from a work standpoint and a mentality. I could describe it three quarters of the way through preparing for this season, is we have some very good vocal leaders. We have more than a handful of quiet, confident leaders. I'm very encouraged, especially over these last couple of weeks, with our captains, our leadership committee and the meetings we've been having in terms of their focus and resolve. There's excitement for this season.
"Coming off last season, it was disappointing. It stunk. That's embarrassing for me in terms of the record. Not the way our kids played, not the way our kids competed, I want that to be known. I'm not disappointed in them. They fought tooth-and-nail all the way through the last game of the year, as evidenced by two buzzer-beater losses in the month of November. When you have a season like that, it makes you go back and reevaluate everything in your program. Staff, philosophies, the way you train, the way you recruit, the way you develop leadership, how you practice and even some schemes on offense and defense. I tell you, it forces you to go back and reevaluate it so it'll never happen again. I made a staff change. We made a little bit of a change on offense in terms of philosophy, and we made a few practice changes. I say practice changes in terms of what I mentioned earlier in competitive situations. But the thing I probably did for me, and I think we're all like this in our jobs, as you go back and reevaluate everything. The longer I looked at it and the more I talked to mentors, fellow head coaches, our staff, it just reinforced a lot of the things that I believe in, that we believe in here at Utah State, in how we've won games prior to last year. That's our plan to win, that's our core values, it's how we recruit, it's not changing. It's how we train in the weight room, it's not changing. There are some tweaks here and there with some new stuff in terms of conditioning, but there were some core philosophies that are absolutely at the forefront of winning football games that's been done here at Utah State that will not change. Do we want the result of last year to change? Absolutely. I think there's a lot of resolve in the coaching staff and the players to get that done. That's what we want. We want the best product out there for Aggie fans, our alumni, our school, our university and everybody that supports us. When it comes down to it, the bottom line is winning close games.
"This is a good league. I look around in our Mountain Division, and there are six returning starting quarterbacks. Next year, at this time, there are no returning quarterbacks. It's just interesting, and I don't know if I've ever seen it going into my 21st year of Division I coaching that your whole league has a returning quarterback. There's going to be close games, and we have to win our share of those. It's been well-stated what happened last year in close games. What we need to do is win a couple of those early and get the mojo and chemistry going and that stuff goes downhill. I remember feeling that and seeing that even in 2013 and 2014 in those years when you get mojo and win some close games. Those are kind of highlights of the last eight months compiled into maybe five minutes. I'd love to talk about any individual players or position battles or anything like that. Instead of going through the whole roster and spending all that time, I'll let you guys fire away right now."
On whether or not he pays attention to preseason picks:
"Define the length of pay attention. I got off the plane in Vegas, and I saw it. Who can't? Somebody tells me about it, Doug says something about it, I see an email, I see a tweet or something. You see it. I did not dwell on it one bit. The first thing I thought, and I had to go study the West Division, but I remembered that the team the media picked to come in last, last year, won our division. The media members that picked it, they're human, too. They're picking it off what happened last year. We were human, too, and we struggled last year. That's why you see what you saw in terms of the preseason predictions. Did our players see it? I guarantee you. Are we dwelling on it? Absolutely not. Will it be some internal motivation? Possibly. That's kind of how I think about those predictions."
On who are offensive playmakers who can make a difference in close games:
"Obviously the guy handling the ball is going to play a big part in that, the quarterback. When you have some targets out on the outside that have some length, Dax Raymond, Ron'quavion Tarver, those are the guys that when third down catches have to be made to keep a drive alive, your best players have to come through and make good plays. I know going into training camp, those two guys that I just mentioned on the perimeter, and there are many others that will have a chance for those roles, but I've seen those guys do it, I know about those guys and believe in those guys. You talk about offensive playmakers, there's going to have to be guys that make those plays. They may have single coverage or mismatches. Those kind of guys have to make plays. I'm reminded of a few years ago when sometimes you don't play very well on offense, and there's going to be those nights, but somebody has to take over a game. There have been some times where one guy can take over a game. That's why players make plays and they win games. Because at some point, that does have to happen in those close games."
On the focus of the inexperienced defensive line:
"That will be one of the defensive staff's primary focuses in this training camp. We have traditionally played a rotation on the defensive line. That will never change. We have played almost every year that I've been here as an assistant or head coach in this odd-front defense we play, usually three nose guards. Not all equal reps, but three nose guards. That will continue. Gasetoto Schuster's played a lot, Christopher `Unga's played a little bit and will have a bigger role now. Mohelika Uasike played a little bit last year as a true freshman and he's going to have a bigger role. We're going to cross-train Mo from nose guard to defensive end. Mo's going to play both. GMac and Chris will be primarily nose guards. Looking at the defensive ends, Ian Togiai has played a good role every year. He didn't even redshirt. He's played since his true freshman year in 2013. The case will be the same this year. Coming out of spring, Adewale Adeoye and Jacoby Wildman, those guys have really good motors. I'm really proud of Adewale and all the progress he's made since a true freshman redshirting. I remember getting that kid out of St. Louis and knowing how far he had to come. That's an outside linebacker that now weighs 270 at defensive end. He's a self-made man, and one of the car wreck guys. Oh man. To see him come back from that is a miracle, right? He plays with a high motor. Then there's some guys that will have to form roles in training camp. Those guys will be Logan Lee, Devon Anderson, a new junior college transfer we're excited about, Nami Tuitu'u, a true freshman from Mesa, two guys that were in this recruiting class. It's full-go with those guys. Jake Templeton is another one that can be a little cross-trained. Right now we're going to keep him at D-end instead of nose, but he can go back and forth. He and Logan Lee had their moments in spring, and they also got banged up, so we'll need some more time to evaluate those guys."
On players outside of Raymond who didn't play much last year that he expects contributions from:
"Dax doesn't count? I'd say Baron Gajkowski right off the top of my head competing for playing time in the secondary and probably will play on the majority of special teams. He'd be a redshirt freshman free safety out of Lone Peak. Jaren Colston-Green was very much a role player, spot player last year, and I've said this so it's not surprising, but he's probably been the most improved on offense this spring. I know he's going into his senior year, and I'm excited about JCG outside on the perimeter. David Woodward, a redshirt freshman outside linebacker out of Washington. He'll have a chance to play some nickel when we want to go bigger nickel. Braxton Gunther in terms of special teams. That's one that I think you'll see. There are several offensive linemen: Demytrick Ali'ifua, Villiamu McMoore, Ty Shaw. Those three young freshman are guys that are all in the top eight right now as we go. Sean Taylor coming off a redshirt year at right tackle."
On how to combat the strides the Mountain Division has made since Utah State joined the Mountain West:
"Just find ways to win close games. I think we're recruiting at a high level. I think you guys know what I think about this class coming in compared to every class we've had. We're doing that. You have to win close games. Other guys have closed the gap on you, and even as I say they've closed the gap and it's a very competitive division, I go back and think about 2013 and 2014. I've looked at it and studied it. When you don't go to a bowl game, you have a whole lot more time at home to study that, unfortunately. We won close games those years. I'm not sure we were as far ahead of those teams as people think. We found ways to win close games. We had mojo and chemistry. It started rolling, and we said `get it to the fourth quarter, and we'll find a way to win.' More times than not, we won more than our fair share, and when you do that, it gives you a good season. That's some of the things it has to come down to."
On whether the guys were antsy to get started with fall camp as other teams in the state started earlier:
"Oh yeah, they're excited. We're starting a little earlier for us than in the past, but later than some of the other teams in the state. That's why they're excited to get out. This year, it's a little bit different of a training camp schedule with no two-a-days. Dave Scholz, our head strength and conditioning coach, and I have done more studies in terms of where our soft tissue issues and injuries in training camp have come from, so we kind of tweaked some of the practices. Also, with the up-tempo pace of the offense, there are some smaller things, maybe unnoticeable, but our players are aware of them, that we're changing the length of some of the practices. I don't think you have to go two-and-a-half or three hours anymore as fast as these guys are going and as hard as we're practicing in terms of the pace, too, there's some different things."
On if this is the first time since he's been at USU that there have been no two-a-days:
"Yeah, but last year we only had one. The second one I canceled and we went to the movies, and I was the best head coach in America for a minute. Honestly, the last two years, I think we've had one two-a-day. When I started in Tulsa with Steve Kragthorpe and here with Coach Andersen, we didn't have a tremendous amount of two-a-days. I think hopefully we've become smarter, and not just coaches but strength and conditioning staffs, how you train your players through the summer has just changed. We had very little changes at Utah State with the new rules the NCAA gave us. I know some programs had to completely change their philosophy. I'd say our philosophy over the last five, six, seven years I've been at Utah State a lot closer resembles the new change in philosophy in practices with the NCAA."
On any changes and similarities with the new offense under Coach Yost:
"We're still playing with no huddle. We've played no-huddle since I've been here. The first year of no-huddle it was the slowest no-huddle in Division I football, but we were no-huddle in the media guide. We were going to hand it to Robert Turbin a whole lot, and Michael Smith and Kerwynn Williams. We're just going to play with more pace to the offense. In some ways, it'll be simpler in terms of on the board stuff. But you're playing faster. We want to be very aggressive with down-the-field throws. You always have to run the ball. We are not going to become a throwing team in terms of every down or a significant part. Somebody asked me because Yost was with Leach at Washington State, we will not be throwing the ball 70 times a game. There's still a good mix, but it's about putting the ball in your playmakers' hands. What do I hope will change? Points on the scoreboard. Which helps us win games."
On if there's a frontrunner in the running backs group and if unexpected experience last year helps them:
"That game experience absolutely helps. Unfortunately, it may be the result of someone else's injury, which you don't want. All three of those backs, LaJuan Hunt, Tonny Lindsey and Justen Hervey. Tonny became the everyday starter as the season went on had a very solid year. Now, Eltoro Allen is going to get added to that mix, the junior college transfer this summer. Coach Tommerdahl, did a nice job in the spring of rewarding performance in the spring the next day with the ones. So you're probably going to see a bit of a revolving door with those running backs throughout the beginning of training camp."
On any summer standouts:
"I mentioned Adewale earlier. He's really changed his body. Dax Raymond has lost weight and body fat. I could go on and on, but you guys have seen it. Twitter's a powerful thing. You've seen those transformations on there. How about a guy like Roman Andrus? You guys won't write about him. I get it, it's an O-lineman. He, his mom and coach Farmer and I will talk about him. That's a 270-pound defensive lineman at Snow that came here, is now 290 and lost body fat. His transformation just in eight months is good. Quin Ficklin really increased his strength quite a bit over eight months. And that's an older guy, that's hard to do. Chase Christiansen had a tremendous summer, and when you look at weight gain, body fat loss. I gave you some highlights. There are many, many more. It would be impossible to go through all of the or even a majority of them."
On the quarterback situation and senior quarterback Kent Myers coming back as a starter:
"At the end of the spring, Kent distanced himself. I said that at the end of the spring. He distanced himself from the guys in that room and played well as the spring ended. Hopefully, tomorrow looks like practice 16 for him from the spring and we don't go backwards. Really with all of them, but especially in that quarterback room. DJ Nelson, Jordan Love and now add Henry Colombi to the mix. It's going to be a competitive room. There's going to be some times where you may see some of those other quarterbacks going with the ones. I want Kent to re-earn that spot. I want him to distance himself if that's going to happen because it's a competitive nature, we're in a competitive business and it's a competitive room. If another one of those quarterbacks has the ability to overtake a guy, I want him to have that opportunity. It's a competitive room. You want every spot to be competitive. If we had to play today, he would start, there's no question."
Utah State Football Media Day Quotes From Senior Quarterback Kent Myers:
"This summer has been going well with the team. A lot of receivers have stepped up. Ron'quavion Tarver has always been a leader, but Jordan Nathan has really stepped up, as has Jaren Colston-Green. Dax Raymond is finally back and I've only played one game with him in two years, so I'm excited that he's back. There are a lot of new offensive linemen that have come and made big strides. This year, we're taking it personally. We're not happy with the 3-9 record we had last year. We have to come back and change that, because it's not our culture. We have to change something. The coaches don't have to motivate us, that's just what we want to do. We're confident that we can compete in this conference. There are going to be some tough games, but we will hang in there and we'll win a lot of games. I'm confident that we'll make it to the Mountain West championship game this year."
On the turnover on the offensive line:
"I have confidence in all my guys, and the coaches have confidence in them to be in the role they have as starters. They came in without any experience and without confidence, but we've been working together this summer and I'm ready for fall camp to see what they can do in pads. They're going to do amazing this fall camp and this season."
On the changes in practice this season:
"I know that we can't have two-a-days anymore, but I'm sure we'll have a long run through. I'm just going out there prepared for anything. I don't know what's going to happen or how practice will really be, but we're prepared for it and ready to get after it."
On changes and improvement he wants to make as a senior:
"The first thing would be my leadership. I think it starts with that, and that is the main thing. You can have the most talented team in the world, but if you don't have leaders to motivate your guys and keep everything up to par, then your team can break down. Last year I was a leader, as well, and we had some good leaders, but you can always improve on something. We went 3-9. If we would have said something sooner - there are always those what-ifs - but I think our season could have turned around sooner, especially with the number of close games we had. Hopefully, we can change that this year."
On the running backs:
"There is a lot to say about them. We have Tonny Lindsey, Jr., LaJuan Hunt and Justen Hervey, three running backs that can start in any program. It's hard to have three running backs, but we're going to make it happen. They have the ability, and they've shown over the summer that they will get on the field, whether that's at running back, kickoff returns, or whatever. They've been working hard, doing a lot of good pass-blocking, which is the major thing we needed to improve on. I think they've done well with that this summer. They all have something they are good at, and that will really help us."
On his leadership style:
"I'm not the most vocal guy, but I feel like I show my leadership both on and off the field in how I carry myself. That's just how I was raised. Everybody is coached differently and everyone takes things differently. I've gotten to know my teammates and know how different people react. Some people like you being in their face, others would rather you pull them aside and say it. I've gotten familiar with all my teammates and I know how to approach them."
On Coach David Yost and why he's right for the job:
"Coach Yost is the right man for the job. He's a family guy. This summer he told us to enjoy our time away from football for a little bit so we could be fresh when we came back. He's a laid-back coach, and that's how we like to be coached. He won't yell at us right then and there, but he'll pull us aside and talk to us, or critique us when we watch film. That's what makes him the best for the job. He knows how to approach people. He's seen how I react to things, and how all the quarterbacks do. We all take things differently, and he's good at seeing that with the entire team."
On differences in his game style this season:
"In the past we've done a lot of sideways passing, and not getting up the field as much as we want. We're going to spread the offense and go vertical a lot. I know we're going to score a lot of points, and that's just how the offense is made. It's made for us to get a lot of yards and a lot of points. No one is going to stop us but ourselves. We have to go out there and complete the ball. Everything is there for us, we just have to go out there and play our game."
On ensuring his position as the starter:
"There is always competition at every position, no one is safe. The best guys in the league still have to compete for their spot. When you don't have that competitive nature, you become complacent and just try to get by. I'm going to be who I am and who I've always been. I'm not in competition with anyone but myself. I know what I have to do to get myself better and I've been working hard. I worked hard last summer, but it didn't go as planned. I'm taking this year personally and I'll come out and show it."
Utah State Football Media Day Quotes From Senior Cornerback Jalen Davis:
"This team is looking really good right now, and I'm not going to lie or sugarcoat anything. This team is unbelievable. This summer has been great seeing a lot of progress from everybody. The leaders are stepping up, the people in the middle are stepping up at becoming leaders and the new guys are starting to step up. We're looking really good this year and I can't wait for fall camp to start."
On the wake-up call from last season:
"Last year was disappointing to say the least. We got that out of the way and it's time to roll. No more sugarcoating it. We're going to tell you how it is straight up and get things done the Aggie way."
On the changes made in the weight room after last season:
"We just felt like it wasn't all there last year. This year we knew we had to push it in the weight room and go as hard as possible. We strain ourselves to be the best we can be, lift as much as we can, run as fast as we can and keep everyone pushing and going along the correct way."
On the importance of the cornerbacks stopping the run:
"We're going to be in the run game this year, that's a fact. There aren't going to be missed tackles. We didn't sugarcoat it with anyone, we talked to everyone on the team about what they needed to get better at. This year is going to be great."
On the defensive leaders:
"Dallin (Leavitt) is a very vocal leader. He's the main one telling people straight up how it is and how he feels. I just can't wait for the season. There are a lot of people doubting us, and we can't wait to prove everybody wrong."
On who has stepped up defensively:
"Cameron Haney has really stepped it up at corner. I've seen Ja'Marcus Ingram stepping up. I've seen a lot of new guys looking really good out there. I can't wait for fall camp to see how they do and see how they react when they get into situations."
On his expectations from the linebackers:
"I expect nothing but excellence. I expect perfection out there, that's it. That's what we need to see out there this year."
On who has separated themselves in the linebacker group:
"Justus Te'i and Chase Christiansen are stepping up. All the linebackers are on point. They know the defense like the back of their hand. They know everything to it. It's going to be good."
On his personal off-season evaluations:
"I talked to everyone, evaluating ourselves to see what we can do better and improve on. Mainly we want to be more aggressive."
On going into his senior year and ending his career on a high note:
"These years went by fast. I was just a freshman, now I'm a senior. After last year, I'm not going out like that. I'm not going to have any of that be tolerated. I'm going to be all-Mountain West. I will be. That's how I'm going to help my team out."
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