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Utah State looks to build on last year's record-breaking season as spring practice begins

By Paul Swenson, | Posted - Mar. 20, 2019 at 10:42 a.m.

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LOGAN — After posting an 11-2 record and tying a school record for the most wins in a season last year, Utah State football is back.

The Aggies began spring football Tuesday and will continue through mid-April.

Many key contributors from last year’s team will be returning, including quarterback Jordan Love and linebacker David Woodward, but the Aggies will also have some work to do to improve on last year’s record-breaking season. The team is returning a total of nine starters from last season, only two on offense and seven on defense.

Here are a couple questions for the Aggies as they start spring practice.

Will Gary Andersen be able to build on last season?

The Aggies saw a lot of success in Gary Andersen’s last stint with the team, but will he be able to keep the momentum of last season going? Matt Wells won the Mountain West Conference Coach of the Year award while leading the Aggies to one of their best seasons in school history. His team finished ranked No. 22 in the Associated Press poll, but Wells left Logan to take the head coaching job at Texas Tech.

Utah State announced that Andersen would be returning to Logan to be the head coach of the Aggies after holding jobs at Wisconsin, Oregon State and Utah during the past seven seasons. Andersen, who coached Utah State from 2009-12, finished with a 26-24 record in Logan during his first four seasons. After going 4-8 in his first two years with the Aggies, Andersen led Utah State to back-to-back bowl games in 2011 and 2012.

The 2018 Aggies and the 2012 Aggies — Andersen’s last season before moving onto Wisconsin — share a lot of similarities. The 2012 Aggies finished 11-2 with a No. 16 ranking in the AP poll as Andersen earned the Mountain West Conference Coach of the Year award. Anderson will almost be picking up right where he left off from the 2012 season.

Wells and the Aggies finished 9-5 in 2013, with two of their five losses coming to in-state rivals BYU and Utah. Andersen and the Aggies will face off against BYU in 2019, as well as travel to Wake Forest and LSU for nonconference games.

How will the Aggies replace one of their best offensive lines in school history?

Utah State is losing multiple contributors from last year’s offensive line, including first team All-Mountain West star Quin Ficklin, second team honoree Roman Andrus, two Mountain West honorable mention players, Rob Castaneda and Sean Taylor, and regular contributor Moroni Iniguez.

Alfred Edwards and Demytrick Ali’ifua are two players who saw significant time for the Aggies last season and will be expected to step up to replace last year’s line-up. Besides those two, the rest of the offensive linemen on the roster either only appeared in a few games last season or will be new to the team this year.

Anderson knows the offensive line will play a huge role in his team's success this season.

"The key to this offense, when it's all said and done next year in January when we're talking about the season, will be how the offensive line replaced the players that they had,” Andersen said on national signing day last month. “I'm proud of the way those kids are lifting, grinding and training every single day right now. So far, so good, and we have a lot of work to do, but I like them."

Eight of the Aggies’ 15 spring practices will be open to the public — March 19, 22-23, 28, 30 and April 4, 9, 13. The Aggies will hold their annual Blue vs. White spring game the last day, April 13, at noon.

Paul Swenson

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