Winning six games and getting back to a bowl game last year was a nice step forward for Utah State, but there is a bad taste in Logan after the Aggies dropped their last two games -- the regular-season finale at Air Force in the final two minutes and the Arizona Bowl to New Mexico State in overtime. This year, they'll look for a stronger finish in the Mountain West.
Previewing Utah State Football's Offense for 2018
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There is experience throughout the offense, but developing consistent receivers will be a key to success for Utah State in 2018. "We need some wideouts to step up in the slot and outside," coach Matt Wells says. "We need other receivers to step up to complement Ron'quavion [Tarver]."
Tarver caught 48 passes for 569 yards and seven scores. DJ Nelson moved from quarterback to the slot, giving the receiving corps some needed depth. Additionally, Wells landed USC graduate transfer Jalen Greene following spring practice to add to the mix at receiver. At tight end, the Aggies are in good hands with Dax Raymond and Carson Terrell. Raymond caught 41 passes for 456 yards and a score.
Jordan Love started the final six games as a freshman at quarterback and solidified himself as the No. 1 option in the spring. Love passed for 1,631 yards and eight touchdowns while completing 55 percent of his attempts. His backup will be determined in fall camp.
Five starting offensive linemen return, including honorable mention all-league honorees Roman Andrus and Quin Ficklin. Freshman Alfred Edwards may end up starting at tackle as he pushed the veterans and drew praise during spring ball. There is depth in the trenches.
The top rusher graduated, but the Aggies should be better at running back this fall with the addition of junior college transfer Darwin Thompson, one of the top prospects in the Aggies' 2018 recruiting class. Gerold Bright, who moved from receiver to the backfield during last season, has gained weight and gotten stronger. Tre Miller played some as a true freshman last fall.
"The opportunity for someone to step in at running back is there," Wells says. "I expect that battle to go through training camp."
Previewing Utah State Football's Defense for 2018
Losing two all-conference defensive backs would worry most teams, but the Aggies are confident there is enough talent to remain strong in the secondary. Safety Gaje Ferguson, who had 90 tackles in 2017, will lead the group. Redshirt freshman Andre Grayson is expected to be a top cornerback. The staff used the spring to find the right roles for other members of the secondary.
Linebacker Suli Tamaivena was the leading tackler in 2017, recording 111 stops. Chase Christiansen, David Woodward and newcomer Tipa Galeai will be big contributors as well. "Tipa Galeai is going to be a major force to be reckoned with," Wells says.
Both starting ends are back, and nose guard Christopher 'Unga will anchor the defensive line.
One of the few coaching changes this year: The well-traveled Keith Patterson arrives as defensive coordinator after a four-year stop at Arizona State.
Previewing Utah State Football's Specialists for 2018
Placekicker Dominik Eberle was a Lou Groza Award finalist last season after converting 18-of-24 attempts. Veteran punter Aaron Dalton is back for his fourth season as the Aggies' punter.
With four of the first six games at home, the Aggies -- who return 16 starters and feature talent on across the board -- could build some momentum by midseason and put themselves in position to be a factor in the Mountain Division for the first time in three years. At a minimum, Utah State should head to a bowl game for the seventh time in eight seasons.