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2020 Recruiting Breakdown: Utah State

A class with intriguing skills players

NCAA Football: Boise State at Utah State Brian Losness-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the ninth post in our twelve-part recruiting breakdown series. Today looks at the #9 team in our rankings, Utah State.

This is the first full-year class for Utah State under Coach Andersen (in his second go-around anyway). It is one of the bigger classes in the conferences but is built in a unique way. It contains players from high school, junior college, the transfer portal, and returning from missions. It is lighter on offense, heavy on defense, and filled with special teams players as well as commits who will be leaving on a mission. Nevertheless, there are some interesting players, which can be read about more below.

The Skinny:

  • 24 recruits signed (4 will take LDS missions, 4 returning from LDS missions)
  • 6 offensive, 12 defensive, 4 special teams, 2 athletes
  • 10 players listed at 3-stars by one of the major recruiting sites.
  • Breakdown by state: 4 Utah, 4 California, 3 Texas, 1 Arizona, 1 Oregon, 1 Florida, 1 Nevada, 1 Virginia
  • 117th in the 247 Composite Rankings

The Players:

RB John Gentry

John is one of the best running backs entering the conference. He is explosive out of the backfield, bursting through holes and reaching top speed quickly. Gentry is also an asset in the passing game, who can catch out of the backfield and he can even line up as a wide receiver. He easily makes players miss and knows when to bounce to the outside. John should compete for playing time right away.

RB Elelyon Noa

Elelyon is also another very talented running back. He has great top end speed that allows him to breakaway if he gets into the second level. Noa sees the defense well from the backfield and uses that vision to find the holes before committing to run. He also has great balance and stays on his feet often after getting hit. Eleyon gives the Aggies a potential one-two punch at this position for the future.

JUCO WR Justin McGriff

Justin is coming from the ranks of junior college. He brings great size and big-play ability to the outside. McGriff has impressive leaping ability, giving him an advantage on jump balls in the air. He is especially skilled on fades in the endzone and throws to the sideline. Justin should be able to provide an immediate boost to their receiving corps.

TE Broc Lane

Broc is a physical playing on both sides of the ball but will be joining the program as a tight end. He is quick and has nice footwork while running routes, make it easy for him to gain separation. Lane excels in the middle of the field, whether piling up yards after a short catch or running down the seam for a big play. He is constantly looking for the ball and displays great hands. Broc should add another dimension in the Aggie offense.

TE Josh Sterzer (returning from LDS mission)

Josh is coming back to football after two years away on a mission. He runs crisp routes in the short passing game and he could easily become a quarterback’s best friend as a safety valve. Sterzer can turn on the burners when he gets in the open field and he can be a physical blocker on the line with running plays. He has sure hands and could pile up touchdowns in the redzone. Josh may need some time to get back up to speed but has value in the passing game.

OL Justice Ena (LDS mission)

Justice is a difference-maker on either side of the line but was announced as an offensive player. He gets good push to move the pile in the run game, staying low in his stance and driving upward when making a hit. Ena also does a good job getting into the second level on run plays to open wide running lanes for his backs. He has an athletic build and looks like he can add additional weight to his frame. Justice will be serving a mission but should boost the line when he returns.

DT Poukesi Vakauta (LDS Mission)

Poukesi is quite a talent on the edge of the d-line. He gets off his blocks and into the backfield with little issue. Vakauta maintains contain consistently and is a big key in stopping the run. He plays with a high motor and doesn’t take plays off. Poukesi will be serving a mission but will be a real talent when he returns.

JUCO DL James Hansen

James comes from the junior college ranks of football. He played offense almost exclusively in high school but is coming to Utah State as a defensive lineman. Hansen is mobile and brings the ability to win his matchups pretty easily. His strength is evident by him being able to push back his opponent and gain ground in the trenches. James should be able to see the field right away next fall.

Grad Transfer DL Marcus Moore

Marcus comes over from UCLA. He is difficult to guard with just one player and wins his matchups easily. Moore plays nasty and hunts down quarterbacks and running backs alike in the backfield. He is quick off the snap and attacks using vision and instincts in addition to his physical talent. Marcus is able to play right away and should see the field immediately.

LB Dahlin Mesake

Dahlin is a talented linebacker. He gets to the quarterback quickly off the edge and doesn’t give up on plays. Mesake has a lot of length and his long arms enable him to get a hold of ball carriers and make the tackle. He has sneaky strength and has lots of room to add more muscle to his frame. Dahlin may benefit most from a redshirt but has tons of upside.

LB Izzy Vaifo’ou (returning from LDS mission)

Izzy is another linebacker in this class. He has the look of a natural pass-rusher, with imposing size combined with great speed. Vailfo’ou is comfortable playing on or off the line and his versatility will allow the Aggies to disguise coverage and blitz packages. He sheds blocks well and has good vision to stay focused on where the ball is. Izzy is returning from a mission and figures to enter into the mix at LB.

LB Mata Hola (returning from LDS mission)

Mata comes in to the LB spot with some talent. He isn’t afraid to come right at offensive lineman with a bull rush and push them back using his strength. Hola is a hard-hitter who excels at getting at the QB, although he can also drop back into coverage. He doesn’t give up on plays and his speed allows him to cover ground in a hurry. Mata is also finishing his mission and should add instant depth to the linebacker room.

Transfer LB Keegan Duncan

Keegan is transferring from Boise State to Utah State and switching from running back to linebacker. He brings size and speed to the position, moving well in space and seeing the field well from his time as a running back. Duncan has solid form as a tackler and should be able to roam from sideline to sideline. Simply put, he’s a football player who will find a way to make an impact on the field. Keegan profiles as a weak-side linebacker who can cover ground and rack up the tackles.

DB Jakob Robinson

Jakob is slated to come to Utah State as a cornerback. He is a small player, but electric on the field who plays way above his size. Robinson disrupts receiver’s routes and follows the ball thanks to his time as a WR. He is extremely shifty and hard to catch with the ball in his hands. Jakob is a gamer and has the ability to carve out a role on this team going forward.

DB Bowen Fjord (LDS mission)

Bowen is a hard-hitting safety in this class. He is great in coverage, shadowing receivers and ensuring he gets inside position on jump balls. Fjord has a solid ability of reading the quarterback’s eyes and it allows him to be in good position on the field. He can also step up in run support and gets low on his tackles. Bowen is leaving for a mission but will be back before too long.

DB Breaker Mendenhall

Breaker has a fantastic name to go along with football bloodlines. He is a two-way player with a strong ability to high point the ball in the air and that will help him substantially on defense. Mendenhall has long strides and gets down field in a hurry. He brings nice length to the cornerback position that will be helpful covering bigger wide receivers. Breaker should play sooner rather than later.

DB Luke Marion

Luke is one of the more talented defensive backs in the class this year. He is an extremely physical safety who isn’t afraid of laying a big hit and runs all over the field. Marion is at his best coming in on the play, whether it’s in run support or coming to tackle an underneath receiver. He diagnoses plays well and shades over into position to give him an advantage. Luke is one of the smarter plays on the field in his tape and it won’t be long before the same is true in college.

JUCO DB Xavion Steele

Xavion is a junior college player coming into the fold. He is a natural ball-hawk and possesses blazing speed as he sprints down the field after an interception. Steele’s speed allows him to get into position to make a play and his ability to track the ball in the air helps him make good use of it. He can make up for a misstep or mistake and closes to the ball well. Xavion can easily find a role on the field next fall.

P Stephen Kotsanlee

Film not available.

Stephen is a punter from Australia. He obviously has the Aussie style of punting, which brings him outside the pocket on his kicks. Kostanlee is assumed to have a powerful leg, which is why the Aggies are bringing him from the other side of the planet. He may need some time to acclimate to a new country but he’s already enrolled so he’s getting a head start. Stephen should compete for playing time right away.

K/P Ryan Marks (LDS mission)

Ryan is a kicker/punter the Aggies found. He has a strong leg and should be able to handle kickoff duties in addition to being a punter. Marks kicks straight on and is able to produce a lot of hang-time. He is also a reliable field goal kicker in short distances. Ryan is going on a mission but will be back in two seasons.

K Joey Rouly

Joey is another kicker in this class. He is athletic enough to have moonlighted as a wide receiver while in high school. Rouly has an incredibly powerful leg and can make an impact on field goals as well as kickoffs. On film, he appears to have an idea of where he wants to position his kicks as opposed to just booting it as hard as he can. Joey should have a chance to get on the field as soon as next fall.

LS Jacob Garcia

Jacob is the long-snapper announced in this class. He checks off the biggest box for any snapper: accuracy. Garcia puts his snaps right in the punter or holder’s hands nearly every time. He also excels in his ability to get downfield and tackle once his primary job is complete. Jacob should hold down the position for years with no issue.

ATH Otto Tia (LDS Mission)

Otto was announced as an athlete but played mostly wide receiver in high school. He is versatile, capable of lining up out wide or in the slot and runs short slants over the middle of the field as often as he goes deep. Tia possesses great hands and his a wide catch radius, allowing him to make some difficult catches. He tracks the ball well in the air and that gives him the advantage on deeper routes against defenders. Otto is leaving for a mission but will add some athleticism to the program.

ATH Crew Wakley (returning from LDS mission)

Wakley is coming back from an LDS mission and here’s what we said about him in 2018: He’s listed as an athlete but the bulk of his high school highlights are at quarterback. He’s gifted in the read-option offense, with the legs to make big plays against defenses. Wakley is at his best on the run making plays and that trait will be able to translate to a variety of positions.

Quick Hits:

Headliner(s):

Mike: Gentry, Mario, Mesake

Talented enough to play right away:

Mike: Gentry, Mario, Mesake, McGriff

Sleeper Recruit:

Mike: Mendenhall

Best unit:

Mike: Running backs

Summary:

Utah State’s class in a way seems all over the place but it really is part of the plan. They left no stone unturned in their mission to find the best talent out there. A number of recruits have talent that is easy to see on tape. For others, it is more difficult to determine, either because they were on a mission and haven’t played football for two years or else are a bit undersized or went up against non-powerhouse competition. All of that aside, the Aggies identified their players and secured them in this 2020 class.

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Next Up: Nevada