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Utah State Position Preview: Defense

A in depth look at the Utah State defense

NCAA Football: Utah State at Louisiana State Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

There is one week left until (hopefully) Utah State takes on Boise State on the road in the first of eight total games for the Aggies. In past weeks this series has given an in depth look at the Utah State quarterback and offensive line and wide receiver positions. Since this is the last week of the offseason, this week the series will go over the Utah State defense.

Defensive Line

In 2019, the defensive line was led by Tipa Galeai who had 55 tackles five sacks and a forced fumble. Galeai is now gone but Justin Te’i is returning for his senior year. He played in 13 games and had 51 total tackles and finished the season with 1.5 sacks. This was his first year playing as a defensive end for the Aggies as he played linebacker before switching to defensive end. Senior Christopher Unga also returns after posting 47 total tackles three for loss and two sacks and also forced a fumble. Sophomore Elijah Shelton is a linebacker turned defensive end. He had 23 tackles total and eight solo tackles. Senior defensive lineman Caden Anderson had 19 tackles for loss and four solo tackles in 2019. Hale Motu’apuaka and he finished the year with 13 total tackles and five solo (eight assist) as a freshman and will look to increase his production in his sophomore year. These are just some of the defensive lineman that Aggies fans may hear about this year.

Linebacker

David Woodward had a stellar 2018 season with 134 total tackles with five sacks and two forced fumbles. In 2019, Woodward again posted good numbers in 93 total tackles, four forced fumbles, a fumble recovery and a touchdown. Woodward declared for the NFL Draft after the 2019 season but the Aggies do return the second most productive linebacker from the team last year, Senior Kevin Meitzenheimer. He had 90 tackles an interception and two forced fumbles in 2019 in a season where he saw much more playing time and production. Senior Eric Munoz returns as well and in five games had rather eye opening numbers with 36 total tackles and two interceptions and with David Woodward is gone, Meitzenheimer could see a big increase in playing time. Someone else who may see an increase in playing time is Nick Heninger who is a linebacker turned defensive end. There isn’t a lot of experience in the linebacker position so experience will be welcomed. AJ Vongphachanh is a defensive end turned linebacker and only saw four games as a freshman and due to COVID-19 and depth issues Vongphachanh may see more games in a shortened season. Cash Gillam is a safety turned linebacker and could potentially see playing time as well.

Cornerback

DJ Williams led the Aggies and played two seasons. In 2019 with 72 tackles two interceptions and a fumble recovery. Williams is now gone so the starting role may now fall to Junior Andrew Grayson. He played in 13 games in 2019 and had 47 tackles, a sack, an interception, and two forced fumbles. Sophomore Cam Lampkin returns after playing in eight games his freshman season. As a freshman he had 10 tackles, two pass deflections and an interception. Terin Adams, who transferred from Arizona State in 2018 and only saw five games in 2019. The game production could increase with depth issues and trying to keep players healthy at one of the hardest positions to play. Zahodri Jackson has been with Utah State for two years and has only seen eight total games in his career. In his time, he has had 11 tackles and a pass deflection. Jarrod Green has seen only five games and has six tackles in his career but other than Andre Grayson and Cam Lampkin, the Aggies are a little thinner on depth at cornerback so playing time could also increase for Green.

Safety

Troy Lefeged led the safeties last season with two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries on top of the tackles. Lefeged will be joined in the secondary by Shaq Bond 83 total tackles and one forced fumble. Lefeged and Bond make up one of the most talented safety duos in the Mountain West. Sam Lockett also comes back played in four games as a freshman in 2019 and had five tackles. Lefeged and Bond have more than secured their spots as starters on the roster but that doesn’t mean that Lockett will not see playing time at some point down the road. Dominic Tatum is a cornerback turned safety and if injury befalls Lefeged or Bond, Tatum may see time on the field as well. Michael Anyanwu is less likely to see playing time after appearing in one game in his freshman season during 2019. Cornerback may be one of the most experienced position groups for the Aggies and this should benefit Utah State when defending against the pass.

As stated before one week before the season is expected to begin. Next week comes the game preview for Utah State at Boise State.