Aggies back to business with spring football
This year's spring has 86 players talking about none other than football.
The Utah State University football team began spring ball last Monday and is hoping to erase last season's dismal memories that included its second straight losing season, as well as the firing of head coach Dave Arslanian.
The Aggies, who lost 22 seniors (10 of them being in the program for five years) from last year's squad that went 4-7, are hoping to rebuild a program that hasn't been above .500 since 1996 (6-5).
In 97, Utah State went 6-6, earning it a spot in the inaugural Humanitarian Bowl, but fell to 3-8 the year after.
First-year head coach Mick Dennehy, who saw 86 players report to the first day of practice (26 of his own recruits), knows USU has a long way to go before the season opener, Sept. 2, at Texas Tech University.
"We've got a lot of work to do," Dennehy said. "It's really hard evaluating kids when you don't have pads on. There's a lot of all-Americans that line up and play against air, but when you put the pads on and put some people across from them, it creates a little more realistic situation.
"We've got a lot of time left and we're not in any hurry. I think we've accomplished some objectives that we had set for ourselves for the first couple of days."
A couple of those objectives for Dennehy and his staff is to get an adequate amount of the offense and defense in so the players could get a feel for the new system.
"Very pure and simple, hopefully we can get enough of our offense, and our defense in, to where the kids understand it well enough where we can line up and start competing against one another," Dennehy said.
But will learning a new system be difficult for the Aggies?
Dennehy doesn't think so simply because some of the players may be doing it for the third time under a new coaching staff.
"These guys have had so many coaches, some of them it ought to be easier on them than it is on most," Dennehy said.
But Dennehy knows that some players may have some negative feelings about learning a whole new system, again.
"I think under the circumstances you can hardly hold it against them to be cynical with a new group of coaches coming in," Dennehy said. "Some of these guys, throughout their careers, have had four different position coaches. I think that's made it hard on them."
However, in order to be successful, the team has to give the coaching staff a chance to turn the program around.
"Like I asked them when we first got here, We're us, we're not them, give us a chance,'" Dennehy said. "If we're going to have a chance at all, it's going to be because we all believe in one another, and you're going to have to believe what we're telling you.'"
And one way everybody can get to that level is by getting to know one another better, which is another thing Dennehy would like to accomplish this spring.
"Getting to know the players one step further, obviously, it's a big time for us because (we) haven't had much of a chance to get to know all the kids," he said. "Also, get to know them from the standpoint of who the players are in pecking order, on the depth chart. We'll try to get as much of that established as we can.
"Also, from a personality standpoint, we'll try to find out who amongst the guys...is going to make plays for us? How are they going to react? Who are our playmakers?"
The Aggies will continue to practice on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays
and Saturdays, up until April 14, when they host their Blue-White scrimmage
at Romney Stadium.