Utah State football: Aggies search for puzzle pieces, especially at linebacker – Salt Lake Tribune

7 months ago Comments Off on Utah State football: Aggies search for puzzle pieces, especially at linebacker – Salt Lake Tribune

Utah State finished 6-7 last year. The Aggies dropped four of their last five games, including a 23-21 loss to Akron in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.

An offseason filled with change followed. Six assistant coaches left, including both coordinators. Between recruiting and putting together a new staff, Wells had little time to breathe.

As the Aggies head into their final two weeks of spring practice, however, the 2016 edition of Utah State football is slowly evolving.

Is Wells juiced about what’s happening within his program?

“I’m always excited,” he said. “I’m coaching at my dream job and the challenge and motivation of putting together the new version of the Aggies — after some graduation losses and some coaching changes — is very exciting.”

With 13 starters returning, but only three on defense, Wells likens the process this spring to piecing together a puzzle.

“When I was a kid, the first thing you did was find the four corners,” he said. “We did that when we found our coaches. Then the middle of the puzzle starts coming together. That will happen for us.”

Linebacker is one position that will look newer than Maverik Stadium when Utah State opens its season Sept. 1 against Weber State.

Wells must replace four players who are likely headed to NFL training camps, including draft picks Kyler Fackrell and Nick Vigil. Along with LT Filiaga and Torrey Green, they made 352 tackles last season, including 11 quarterback sacks.

“Any time you lose four guys like we lost,” Wells said, “it’s going to take some time to replace them. … It’s a challenge for the guys here now and for some new guys we have coming. They have to step up and fill those spots. But I think we have some good candidates to do it.”

Among the returners, sophomore Chasen Andersen (5-11, 220) played in all 13 games last season. He had 13 tackles. Senior Brock Carmen (6-3, 230) also played in every game. He finished with 12 ankles.

Junior Alex Huerta (6-2, 230) was pushing for a starting job in 2014 before breaking his shoulder just before the season opener at Tennessee. Last year, he had four tackles in 12 games while playing behind Utah State’s Big Four.

Asked about Huerta, who prepped at Mountain Crest High School, Wells said, “He cares, he has knowledge of our system and he plays really hard. He can also play inside or outside in our system.”

Another locally produced linebacker is sophomore Derek Larsen (6-3, 230) from Logan. He played in nine games last season.