With spring camp coming to a close soon, Utah State’s football team is going to make the most of every opportunity it has to be on the field.
Such was the case Monday as the Aggies opened their final week of camp with a solid, early-morning practice at the Laub Indoor Training Center.
“Practice was definitely good,” cornerback Nevin Lawson said. “We came out with intensity, everybody flew around. I felt like we had a good day of practice, we put in some good work today. It’s our final week, so everybody is excited. Football is going to be taken away from us for the next three to four months, so we’re going to try to make the best of it before the spring game.”
First-year head coach Matt Wells liked what he saw from his team on Monday, especially the fact there was no letdown coming off of the weekend.
“It was a good, spirited Monday,” Wells said. “It’s Day 13 and we continue to talk about investment and investing in the process, and not letting a day go by and today would have been an easy day to let go by. I think there was a lot of good work on both sides.”
The defense was certainly fired up during the third-down competition.
Faced with different distances on third down, the offense’s goal is to move the chains. On Monday, the Aggie O had a difficult time doing that, though.
“For the last two weeks, the offense has been killing us on third downs, so today we definitely progressed on our third downs,” Lawson said.
Linebacker Jake Doughty highlighted the third-down competition as he made a diving interception on a tipped pass from Chuckie Keeton.
Keeton and the offense picked up two first downs (in six tries).
“It’s very important because at the end of the day, third down is the money down — you can either end the drive or stay on the field,” Lawson said of winning the third-down competition. “Both sides, offense and defense, know how important it is because the coaches stress how important it is. As a player, we know how important it is and I felt like we played good today.”
In the twos against the twos, only one first down was gained courtesy of a pass completion from Craig Harrison to Brandon Swindall.
“Yeah, that’s good for them,” Wells said of the defense. “I still see too many balls shredding through the secondary for our liking, but that was good to see them step up in third downs and get off the field and have a win in that situation.”
Swindall, despite the fact the offense didn’t win the third-down competition, liked what he saw from that side of the ball Monday.
“It went good for the receivers,” Swindall said of the practice. “We really improved today on catching and our assignments. The offense did real good driving the ball down the field against the defense.”
The Aggies also worked on special teams Monday, with Bruce “JoJo” Natson, Travis Reynolds, Kelvin Lee and Lawson taking turns returning kickoffs.
“I’m definitely trying to be back there on the kickoff return,” Lawson said. “... I’ve been working with (wide receivers) coach (Jovon) Bouknight catching the ball properly and I’ve been progressing.”
Monday’s practice was capped with an individual competition that featured Aggies going against each other while playing out of position, and one trying to stop the other from scoring.
Nose guard Elvis Kamana-Matagi was pitted against offensive lineman Sini Tauauve’a and caught a ball in the end zone for a touchdown.
“It’s just a good way to end practice on an upbeat note. It’s just fun,” Wells said.
The drill also featured offensive lineman Logan Malohifo’ou and defensive end Paul Piukala squaring off, as well as offensive lineman Kyle Whimpey and defensive end Connor Williams. Only Kamana-Matagi caught a touchdown, though.
“We may have to look at Elvis as a goal-line tight end,” Wells said with a laugh.
USU will practice again Wednesday afternoon — without pads — then wrap up camp with the annual Blue-White Spring Game on Saturday at 2 p.m. at Romney Stadium.