OGDEN — Looking around the field at Stewart Stadium meant not seeing some staples of Weber State football’s rise — players like Iosua Opeta, Landon Stice and LeGrand Toia have exhausted their eligibility.
“It’s weird to be one of the only upperclassmen and look around and not see those guys here,” Weber High alum and senior linebacker Auston Tesch said Tuesday as the Wildcats opened spring camp. “It just reminds me of the shoes I’ll need to fill and the role I’ll be playing.
“I’m excited for the upcoming dudes we have to go out and make plays,” Tesch said.
Head coach Jay Hill said it’s just part of building a program, one that finished last season ranked No. 6 nationally.
“We lost some dang good players that played a lot of football for us, but we did the year before, too,” Hill said. “That’s college football, you lose key guys every year.”
Tuesday’s practice looked much like any other practice under Hill, but running longer than a fall practice to allow more reps for third- and fourth-string players.
As quarterbacks and receivers put in extra reps after practice, Hill said the offense should take a step forward in the second year under offensive coordinator Dave Schramm.
“I see the receivers picking up where they left off. Jake (Constantine) looked good today,” Hill said. “I see us way ahead of where were last year at this time on offense — and we should be. We have 10 returning starters on that side of the ball and another 10 guys who have played a lot.”
NEW COACHES, TOO
Weber State experienced its third coaching staff position to turn over last week when quarterbacks coach Kelly Bills announced his departure to become offensive coordinator at Division II program Central Washington.
Schramm will take over quarterback coaching duties. The person filling the open position left by Bills has been chosen and will be announced soon after completing the hiring process, Hill said, and will coach tight ends.
That completes the staff as linebackers coach Matt Hammer and receivers coach Jared Ursua hit the field Tuesday for the first time in full-practice mode. Their hires happened in January with the departures of Colton Swan and Al Pupunu.
“I love them,” Hill said about Hammer and Ursua, after praising the “really good coaches” they lost.
“He adds a really smart, intelligent guy who’s been around for a while,” Hill said about Hammer. “Jared did a phenomenal job at Southern Utah ... I love what he’s brought to us in recruiting and on the field. I can see his position group getting better already.
“I think the players have taken to these guys already. They can see why I’ve hired them — they’re smart, intelligent, some of the best up-and-coming coaches that are out there.”
Tesch said the new coaches are “absolutely” good fits for the program.
“Swanny was a key piece but I think Coach Hammer fits perfectly. He’s got a different approach to the game but it fits all the needs Coach Swan left, so I have full faith in Coach Hammer, for sure,” Tesch said.
For the third straight season, Hill said it’s his plan to call plays defensively for WSU, though his assistants usually call the defense through the spring.
Weber State continues spring camp with three practices per week leading up to the Spring Game at 1 p.m. Saturday, April 13.