LOGAN, Utah (ABC4 Sports) – The Blake Anderson era has begun at Utah State.
The first year head coach had 97 players suit up for the two hour and 15-minute workout on Merlin Olsen Field at Maverik Stadium Monday night.
“The energy was good, and the guys tried to give us what we wanted, even though they don’t know exactly what that is yet,” said Anderson. “I’ve got coaches that don’t know exactly what I want yet, that will take a little time, same with the players. Their attitudes were great, and you could tell they were excited about being out on the field. It gives us an idea of what to look for when we watch tape and dissect it. We’ve got a lot of work to do and we need to get to know each other, and that will take some time.”
Of the 97 players that were donning helmets, practice jerseys and shorts, nine are graduate transfers, 20 are seniors, 22 are juniors, 39 are sophomores and seven are freshmen.
In all, Utah State returns 19 starters from last year’s COVID-19-shortened season that saw USU post a 1-6 Mountain West record. The Aggies return 14 Super Seniors that were granted an extra year of eligibility from the NCAA due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Those 14 Super Seniors include: CB Terin Adams, OL Demytrick Ali’ifua, DE Jaylin Bannerman, S Shaq Bond, WR Sean Carter, S Cash Gilliam, DE Nick Heninger, RB Devonta’e Henry-Cole, ILB Kevin Meitzenheimer, DT Marcus Moore, WR Jordan Nathan, WR Savon Scarver, TE Carson Terrell and WR Derek Wright.
“Today’s practice was exciting,” said Nathan. “I haven’t felt like this since 2018, when we were really doing something. It’s exciting. The receivers are doing what they’re supposed to do. Even on the defensive side, everything was so competitive, and we’ve missed that the last couple of years.”
Highlighting Utah State’s returners in 2021 is Scarver, who is just the third consensus All-American in school history. Scarver was named a first-team All-American from the Walter Camp Football Foundation, the Football Writers Association of America and Phil Steele’s Magazine, and earned second-team All-American honors from the American Football Coaches Association as a kick returner following his sophomore season in 2018. Scarver was also named first-team all-Mountain West as a kick returner as both a sophomore and junior in 2018 and 2019, respectively, and earned honorable mention all-MW honors as a kick returner in 2020.
Along with Scarver, Utah State returns six more players that earned all-league honors in 2020 in Ali’ifua, Bond, Heninger, Moore, junior ILB AJ Vongphachanh and sophomore P Stephen Kotsanlee. In fact, Bond has earned honorable mention all-Mountain West honors in each of the past two seasons.
“My impressions and thoughts from today are that we had great energy on both sides of the ball,” said Bond. “The first practice this year was different from what we’ve done in the past and the coaches held everyone accountable. Overall, I think today was a great day for the first day.”
Other starters returning for Utah State in 2021 include Henry-Cole, Meitzenheimer, Terrell, Wright, senior OL Alfred Edwards, senior CB Andre Grayson, senior CB Zahodri Jackson, senior WR Deven Thompkins, junior OL Andy Koch, junior CB Cam Lampkin, junior WR Justin McGriff, junior OL Jacob South, junior CB Dominic Tatum and sophomore OL Falepule Alo.
Utah State will practice two more times this week on Wednesday and Friday. During the five-week period, the Aggies will participate in 15 spring practice sessions, including their annual Blue vs. White Spring Game on Saturday, April 17, at 2 p.m.
Utah State opens the 2021 season at Washington State on Saturday, Sept. 4.