LOGAN -- New Utah State football coach Matt Wells will tell you that Chuckie Keeton and Craig Harrison are two quite-different players.
Keeton, the Houston, Texas, native, will dance amidst the defense's front seven with ease whenever he feels pressure. Otherwise, he's more than fine with airing the ball to receivers that, this year, are still looking to prove themselves as go-to players.
Harrison is the Grantsville native and Snow College transfer who will much more readily hold in the pocket before unleashing passes usually across the middle, or dumping the ball out of bounds and moving onto the next play.
Saturday in the Blue vs. White spring game, they didn't look much like a different player, with not many opportunities to express their own styles. The Aggies' second-string offensive line was routinely overwhelmed by a hard-charging defense highlighted by a six 2012 all-conference honorees as Keeton and Harrison were collectively sacked at least a half-dozen times, with three turnovers -- including one interception from each. Just one touchdown and field goal apiece were scored in 50 minutes of game action.
"Well, I know we got out healthy," the first-year USU head coach said. "It was good to see how competitive we were."
The White squad outlasted the Blue 59-39 Saturday afternoon in in a contest featuring a unique scoring style that also rewarded points for large runs and deep passes (two) and first downs (one). A game Wells described as "sloppy" was played in front of a sparse crowd mainly opting for the comfortable season ticket-holder seats on the west side of Romney Stadium.
"That front seven ... people will have trouble running the ball against them," he said of a group that includes 2012 all-WAC linebackers Jake Doughty, Kyler Fackrell and Zach Vigil. "It was good that we were showing around the ball."
Wells expressed satisfaction with the "productive" play of junior running back Joe Hill before saying that senior running back Joey DeMartino has begun to find a "niche" in the special teams and as a situational back.
Hill received most of the carries Saturday. The two have battled all spring to replace NFL draft prospect Kerwynn Williams and the 1,512 yards and 15 touchdowns he provided last season.
Wells added that after an "impressive" spring, sophomore receiver Brandon Swindall will play in the fall. Wells and new offensive coordinator Kevin McGiven seek to replace USU's top four receivers from last season. Swindall, a 6-foot-4, 194-pound Oklahoma City native had a reception and also caused an interception by while trying to reckon a wobbly cross-field heave from Keeton, tipping the ball into the hands of senior cornerback Tay Glover-Wright.
"Number 85 keeps making plays," Wells said of Swindall after suggesting that senior receiver Travis van Leeuwen needs to "be consistent." Van Leeuwen caught the only touchdown of the afternoon, but also dropped three passes.
"Obviously, we need to step up in the summer and fall camp," Van Leeuwen said. "I had too many drops and should have made more plays. The defense did a great job -- I don't want to take that away. But it's time to execute better."
Glover-Wright hopes he has solidified a starting position with his first-half pick.
"What's at stake is getting that position," he said. "I have a lot of things to work on, but still have fun."
Wells said multiple times that a rapid substitution pattern unique to the spring game resulted in "miscommunication" between an offensive line led by seniors Tyler Larsen and Jamie Markosian, an issue that can also be further resolved in the summer.
"Average won't cut it," he said. "We need the leadership of the offensive line; we need the leadership of Chuckie and the front seven."
* NOTES: Former USU stars and Bobby Wagner and Robert Turbin -- now with the NFL's Seattle Seahawks -- along with last year's leading receiver Matt Austin were joined by some three dozen other former players after the game. Ended by Wells, each lined up on the goal line of the north end zone to greet the players. ... Wells said that every junior college transfer who will join the team in August is expected to play, though starting positions are uncertain.