Welcome to the fifth piece in our twelve-part series that hopefully makes the dead period go by a bit quicker. The aim of these articles is to provide a detailed look at what each team has done thus far on the recruiting trail, and what work still needs to be put in before NLI day in February. One team a day will be featured, in order of where they fall in their current MWCConnection ranking. Today looks at Utah State.
5th in MWConnection Recruiting Rankings.
The Aggies had one of the most successful seasons in program history this past year. They ended the year with an 11-2 record, came just one win short of the Mountain West Championship Game, and ended the campaign with a commanding New Mexico Bowl win over North Texas. They relied on an explosive offense to light up the scoreboard and a semi-reliant defense to come up with some big takeaways throughout the year.
Offensively, Utah State ran at a blisteringly-fast pace. They utilized every position they could: quarterback, running back, wide receiver, and tight end. Thanks in part to speedy playmakers and a QB who could make things happen with both his arm and his legs, USU scored faster than anyone else in the country. The two-headed monster that is Darwin Thompson and Gerold Bright helped keep that speed going, as it was only a matter of time as to when one of them would break out for a big play. It’ll be interesting to see what happens with the offense now that David Yost is gone and is being replaced with ex-WKU head coach Mike Sanford. It’d be wise of them to keep the fast-paced offense, as it clearly worked and many of the players that made it work return next season.
Defensively, the Aggies ran a 3-4 scheme throughout the year. This defensive output is used to counter the spread offense, which is one of the most used schemes in college football. Having four linebackers gives the Aggies flexibility (given that the linebackers are athletic, which they need to be for a 3-4 to work properly) in both the run and passing game. This formation will usually have a man that can go play on both the defensive line and as a linebacker and can get after the quarterback, and opposite of him they have a player as an extra man in coverage, all while still having six men in the box and at least four defenders in the secondary. The Utah State defense was fairly average this past season, never truly getting shredded but never really playing lights out. Linebackers David Woodward and Tipa Galeai are the stars and leaders of the defense and will still be here for another year.
The Road So Far:
The 2019 recruiting class has been a good one for Utah State, even after all the coaching upheaval. It should be considered a success that they hung out to their verbal commits. 7 of the signees are on offense, while 8 come in on the defensive side of the ball. California and Utah lead the way in the location department, with 4 and 3 players from each state respectfully. They also recruited the pacific northwest pretty well, with two players from both Washington and Oregon. They also have a player signed from Texas.
Offensively, offensive line was a big focus on this class. However, QB Josh Calvin and WR Cam Lampkin, are the clear headliners. Both have a chance to play very early and should become cornerstones for the offense for years. Junior college tight end Mosese Manu is another one who should contribute next season. Then there are four OL players and size is the theme at this position. Owens, Adams and Rice all seem to project as outside players while Davison will fit well on the inside. The latter two could also add a bit of weight, but none of them need that much change in their frame to be able to compete.
Defensively, linebacker was a big focus. They got one of the better ones in the entire conference in LaValle, and he will likely be a four year contributor. He’ll be joined by the tall and athletic duo of Simon Thompson and Jaymason Willingham. This may be the strength of the class. Sione Moa will be going on an LDS mission. DL brings in Aaron Bredsgaurd, who they will likely take their time with. The secondary has Keith Harris, an intriguing CB who has some length. Then they boosted their special teams with LS Jess Vazquez and P Pierce Callister.
Number who signed in December: 15
Number who will enroll early: 2
The Road Ahead:
Top Targets Remaining: WR, DL, DB.
There are a few names left for the Aggies who did not sign last week (6 verbals by our count), including 3-star CB Akili Arnold. He, along with TE Motes and DE Maxwell should be the priority moving forward as they all bring in quite a bit of talent.
Bringing in another wide receiver would be beneficial for them in the long run as well, as the Aggies could pair another pass catcher with QB Calvin for the future.
Again, the Aggies survived their hardest period when they were able to sign the majority of their verbal commits despite the coaching change. Once the dead period ends, expect the first visits the new staff make to be to the unsigned verbal commits, especially the three mentioned above. Even if they merely complete their class by signing the verbal commits and not any new players, this will still count as a major success.
Recruiting against the top teams in the Mountain West is no easy task and the Aggies were able to grab some top MWC level in this class. They are higher in our rankings (at this time) than many of the usually higher ranked teams in the conference.
Coming tomorrow: Colorado State