The Aggies rank No. 52 in Athlon's Top 130 for 2019
Ten years since he was named head coach at Utah State, Gary Andersen is back in Logan following the departure of Matt Wells to Texas Tech. Following a mixed bag of success at Wisconsin and Oregon State, Andersen has returned to lead an Aggies program that has built on what he started a decade ago with Utah State coming off of an 11-win season. Andersen has some work to do with just nine returning starters.
Previewing Utah State's Offense for 2019
The losses on offense are severe — four starting offensive linemen graduated, the top running back and tight end left early for the NFL and the top three wide receivers were seniors on an offense that set many school records. However, Jordan Love — one of the nation's unknown stars — is back at quarterback after passing for 3,567 yards and 32 touchdowns while completing 64 percent of his passes in 2018. He also rushed for seven scores.
Tackle Alfred Edwards is the other returning starter. He will anchor a young and inexperienced line.
Running back Gerold Bright is back after rushing for 888 yards on just 141 carries. He scored 13 TDs, 10 on the ground and three through the air.
The receiving corps should be deep and full of players eager to prove themselves. Speedy return specialists Jordan Nathan and Savon Scarver will get more time catching balls, while Taylor Compton and Deven Thompkins made waves during the spring. Carson Terrell will start at tight end.
"Our challenge will be rebuilding an offensive line," coach Gary Andersen says. "We also have a similar thing at wide receiver. But we have some hungry guys that are ready to prove themselves."
Previewing Utah State's Defense for 2019
Seven starters and many backups return to a unit that scored six touchdowns and tied for the national lead with 32 forced turnovers a year ago.
Defensive coordinator Justin Ena called his senior-heavy line a strength. End Tipa Galeai made a big splash last year with 10.5 sacks, two interceptions and three forced fumbles. Justus Te'i, Dalton Baker, Christopher 'Unga, Fua Leilua and Devon Anderson are all expected to see significant time. "We have some good depth at the D-line spots," Ena says. "I'm excited to see what they will do. Ball disruption is a big thing for us. We will continue to stress that."
Linebacker David Woodward led the team with 134 tackles last year. The All-America candidate also picked off two passes and recorded five sacks.
In the secondary, Shaq Bond, who is back from an injury, and DJ Williams, who had four interceptions, bring experience to a young group. New additions include Dominic Tatum, Troy Lefeged Jr. and Cash Gilliam. Zahodri Jackson and Andre Grayson drew praise in the spring.
Previewing Utah State's Specialists for 2019
Placekicker Dominik Eberle was a Groza Award finalist in 2017 and holds several school records. Punter Aaron Dalton was granted an extra year and looked good in the spring. Scarver was an All-America kickoff returner, leading the nation with a 33.7-yard average.
It’s been a relatively smooth transition from Matt Wells (now at Texas Tech) to Andersen, who returns to Logan after serving as the Aggies' head coach from 2009-12. He takes over a team that won 11 games last year, including a 52–13 victory over North Texas in the New Mexico Bowl. The schedule this year will be more of a challenge — USU plays Wake Forest and LSU in nonconference action and must visit Fresno State from the Mountain West's West Division — but that doesn't faze the coach.
While there are areas of concern, the Aggies signed one of their best recruiting classes in recent memory. It will be hard to win 11 games again, but USU should once again be in the mix in the division and play in a bowl for the eighth time in the last nine seasons.
National Ranking: 52
(Top photo courtesy of Utah State Athletics)