LOGAN, Utah – As Utah State concludes its first week of spring practice, second-year head coach Matt Wells is excited about where the Aggie football program is heading, but he knows there is always work to do if USU wants to achieve its ultimate goal of winning a Mountain West Championship.
Despite being the reigning Mountain West Coach of the Year, Wells is continuing to push himself, his staff, and his players to work hard and prepare the right way. With spring practice underway, we sat down with Coach Wells to talk about the upcoming weeks and the plans he has for the 2014 season.
<strong>What has been going on in the world of Utah State football since the Poinsettia Bowl win?</strong>
“Since Dec. 27, we have been recruiting. Our guys have been going through strength and conditioning development with Coach (Dave) Scholz and his staff. They’ve been doing a really nice job and are excited to go through spring ball. We’ve added some new kids to the program since the Poinsettia Bowl. We’re excited about them becoming a part of the program. We’re going to start to develop some different leaders and define some roles.”
<strong>What goals do you have for spring practice this year?</strong>
“We want to become more efficient in our schemes on both sides of the ball. We’ll always want to do that. You’re also looking for individual development and progression through a kid’s skill set. Then you’re looking for different groups to step up and define roles and leadership positions within different position groups. Some of the goals will be more individual and group defined.”
<strong>As you head into your second season as a head coach, is there anything you plan to change or do differently?</strong>
“Basically you just need to understand that the 2014 edition of the Aggies is going to be different than the 2013 edition. There will be some adversity, but what that looks like right now, none of us know. None of us knew what last year was going to look like until we got to about the midway point of the season, but you’re forced to deal with it. Football is like life. It’s not easy. It’s tough and sometimes you have to pick yourself back up. Our guys have a lot of resiliency and a lot of toughness. Just the preparation for this year is what excites everybody because you know it’s going to be the same, but there are going to be different parts as to how we accomplish it. That’s exciting. We have some veterans back, some great players and some guys that are great leaders. Then we have kids who are very talented and skillful, that are just youthful and inexperienced. In some ways it may be a little more like the 2012 team, in that we have some youthful positions to fill.”
<strong>For the most part, the coaching staff from last year has remained the same. What is the benefit of having that continuity?</strong>
“First of all, consistency in a coaching staff is critical, but not essential. It’s critical in that it helps skill development and that it’s the same guy coaching a kid for another year, hearing it the same way. But you have to realize that this profession changes sometimes. We will replace guys and find guys who will walk in and love these kids just as hard and coach them just as well, maybe even from a different perspective so a kid can learn. When I went to school here I played for two different quarterback coaches, so I realized change does happen. I’m a product of that.”
<strong>One change was the addition of Joe Lorig as the new linebacker coach. What are his strengths and what will he add to this team?</strong>
“It’s a testament to our players and our program why Joe Lorig is here. Joe Lorig chose to come to Utah State and to be a part of our staff and our program because of the way our players have played on Saturdays, the way they conduct themselves and the way that we do our business here within the complex. We’re excited to add a coach of Joe’s expertise, experience, energy and recruiting abilities. He’s an excellent addition to our staff and will be great for the linebacker room. He’s a really good teacher. He’s very smart and knowledgeable and will add in different areas to what we do scheme-wise on defense and special teams. I’m excited to watch him coach this spring.”
<strong>Tell us about Ikaika Malloe (ee-KEYE-ka ma-LOY) and why he was chosen to fill the defensive line coaching position?</strong>
“Ikaika is excited to be here. It’s an opportunity for him to take a professional step in the right direction. He’s a fantastic teacher. He’s done a good job this week coming in and wrapping his arms around the players. He’s starting to develop relationships and learn about each one of those kids individually. He’s going to be a big asset in recruiting in-state and in the Polynesian pipeline.”
<strong>You have some key players, including QB Chuckie Keeton, who will not participate in spring practice as they continue to recover from injuries sustained last season. How does that affect what you can do during the spring?</strong>
“From an individual standpoint they’ll be limited in what they can do. That will give other guys in those positions opportunities to define their roles as young men because they’re going to be getting more reps. They’ll be getting more time to do what they need to do to improve. Chuckie and Joe (Hill) are right on track and are excited about getting back full speed, hopefully this summer. They’ll be limited this spring, but we know what those guys can do on gameday and we have confidence that they’ll be back helping us.”
<strong>What will the roles of Keeton and the other injured players be during spring drills?</strong>
“Obviously they’ll be in a major rehab role, some on the side of the field and some on the field. Those guys are always leaders by their presence and by what they say. They do a great job of leading, not just in the quarterback and running back rooms, but on the offense and for the entire team. They’re big parts of what we do around here.”
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