There was plenty to be excited about today as USU Head Coach Matt Wells announced his second year of recruits, the first class that is completely his own. Freshmen and JuCo transfers alike committed to play for the Aggies this coming year, and fans should be thrilled with the talent coming to Logan: 19 freshmen (nine on offense, ten on defense) from as far as Florida and as close as Logan High bring a lot of potential in coming years, while eight JuCo players (three on offense and five on defense) add immediate depth and flexibility on the roster.
From last year's bowl-winning team, there are plenty of players leaving and plenty of needs to be met. Here's the breakdown, position by position, of how the Aggies did in meeting those needs (Youtube highlights for the new recruits are hyperlink-ed over their names):
Quarterback: With both Chuckie Keeton and Darrell Garretson coming back next year, there wasn't much pressure to find someone who will come in right away and make an impact in 2014. That being said, the Aggies found something special in Texas recruit Kent Myers. A relatively unheralded quarterback, Myers is nonetheless very impressive, and should be a perfect fit in the Aggie offense.
Running back: The Aggies lose Joey DeMartino, but should have Joe Hill coming back from injury, and also bring back Kennedy Williams. Three star RB Justen Hervey from Texas and two star RB Lajuan Hunt from Florida bring plenty of hope that USU will continue their tradition of great backs; USU Alum Robert Turbin performed well for the Seattle Seahawks in their Super Bowl run this year, and there are great expectations for future Aggie running backs to live up to.
Offensive line: After losing four starters on the line, it seemed natural to assume that this would be a position of special focus for the Aggies. Not so, apparently, as Wells and Co. only added two o-lineman: Demytrick Ali'fua, a new freshman from California, and Logan Rice, a Cache Valley native and Logan High grad. Ali'fua will be serving a two year LDS mission, and will play upon returning. We'll see in the fall whether they simply already had the players to plug in and replace Tyler Larsen, et al, or if this was a recruiting failure by the USU coaching staff.
Tight end: DJ Tialavea was injured partway through the season, and both Keegan Andersen and Wyatt Houston stepped in very well to replace him. Both come back next year, and should see plenty of playing time. The Aggies added some great depth and future growth at the position, however, as they signed two three star recruits in Marcus Mosely (Florida) and Joe Tukuafu (East High, SLC, UT), and four TE's in all. Landon Horne, a transfer from Snow College in southern Utah, should get some immediate playing time, while the other three will have plenty of time to develop, especially Tukuafu and Derek Hastings (Lehi High, Lehi, Utah), who will both also serve LDS missions before playing. The biggest story of this year's recruiting class is Tukuafu, who Wells was able to flip to USU after he had committed earlier to play for the University of Utah.
Wide receiver: Losing seniors Travis Van Leeuwen and Travis Reynolds certainly hurts the Aggies. Having Bruce Natson return, along with other experienced receivers such as Brandon Swindall, Ronald Butler, and Alex Wheat, Jr., will give them a good base to work with. Preston Curtis of East High (SLC, UT) will add to the Aggies' LDS missionary pool, and JuCo transfers Hunter Sharp (Antelope Valley College, California) and Devonte Robinson(Dodge City CC, Florida) will challenge for starting positions. One player who was expected to be announced as an Aggie was American Fork High's Jonah Trinnaman (American Fork, UT). An explosively fast freshman recruit, Trinniman was expected to compete for a starting position this fall. After committing to USU, however, he was not listed with the 2014 class. As I find out more, I'll pass along the details.
Defensive line: BJ Larsen and Jordan Nielsen return to anchor the end positions for the Aggies, but AJ Pataiali'I is moving on after being the presence in the middle at nose guard. Elvis Kamana-Matagi returns after getting some experience at the position last year, and is the probable starter for next year. Coach Wells' crew took the d-line as a very serious concern and added six new recruits, including three JuCo DE transfers: Edmund Faimalo and John Taylor played together at Riverside Community College (California), and Siua Taufa (Diablo Valley CC, California). Mohelika Uasike (Texas) and Christopher ‘Unga (California) are incoming freshmen who will serve LDS missions. Gasetoto Schuster (California) is the last freshman d-line recruit; he will support Kamana-Matagi at NG, and should have a huge impact in coming years.
Linebacker: After Bobby Wagner left for the NFL, there were doubts about the Aggies' ability to maintain the high level of production of Wagner's defense. Jake Doughty and others stepped in to show that USU was going to reload, not rebuild, the defense. Losing Doughty and Terrell Thompson (especially Doughty, one of the nation's leading tacklers) is a big loss, but with Kyler Fackrell, Nick and Zach Vigil, Michael Okonkwo and Tavaris McMillian coming back, the linebacker corps should be just as nasty as it has been the past several years. The 2014 class adds four more linebackers: freshmen Chase Christiansen (Stansbury High, Tooele, UT), Adewale Adeoye (Missouri), and Ian Togiai (Hunter High, West Valley, UT), and sophomore JuCo transfer Sunia Tauteoli (Snow College, Utah).
Cornerback: Nevin Lawson and Tay Glover-Wright both leave after starting last year. Fortunately, the Aggies have Rashard Steward coming back with plenty of game experience. Ladale Jackson and Jeremy Morris should compete with JuCo recruit Deshane Hines (San Mateo Junior College, California) for the other starting position. Jalen Davis(California) is the other CB in this year's recruiting class.
Safety: Brian Suite comes back as the Aggies strong safety, but USU does lose free safety Maurice Alexander. Frankie Sutera should step in nicely to replace him. Three freshmen joined the safety ranks this year to bolster the Aggies depth for coming years. Baron Gajkowski comes from Lone Peak High (Alpine, Utah), Jontrell Rocquemore hails from Texas, and Aaron Wade is coming to Logan from Florida.
Special teams: Basically the entire group of the special teams' specialists returns from last year. Jaron Bentrude will continue as punter, Nick Diaz and Jake Thompson will continue to fight for the starting place kicker position, Jake Thompson will likely continue on kickoffs, and Kennedy Williams and Bruce Natson should handle the returner duties. No new special teams players were added in this year's class.
For more bios and other information about the individual athletes, see Utah State University's Official Athletics Site's Signing Day coverage.