Most likely to improve his draft stock — Tipa Galeai
While trouble might be brewing for the Aggie offense, the defense looks primed to reload.
And no, I haven’t forgotten about David Woodward. Woodward’s production already has him on everyone’s radar (or at least it should), as one of the nation’s best tacklers (134 total, 11.2 pg) inked his name on AP’s third team All-American last year (and PFF’s first team, for what it’s worth).
Galeai returns as the latest Aggie DL with a draftable ceiling — if he can prove he’s still on an upward trajectory. The Texas native’s 2018 campaign earned him second team All-Mountain West honors after leading Utah State in sacks (10.5), tackles for loss (14) and forced fumbles (3). Similar performance against decidedly improved opponents this season will likely generate some positive draft hype for the redshirt senior.
He’ll be aided by USU’s most intact position group from 2018. The Aggie defensive line lost Adewale Adeoye but retained five other senior linemen and standout junior Justus Te’i. With an almost definite increase in pressure situations against talented opponents, Galeai is a good bet to lead this seasoned group and seize some of this upcoming season’s most memorable moments.
Most primed for a comeback season — Shaq Bond
Losing safety depth has this position group on some people’s list of concerns and those concerns are valid. Gaje Ferguson and Aaron Wade were solid pieces in a defense that probably didn’t get enough credit last year.
Returning cornerbacks DJ Williams and Ja’Marcus Ingram are known commodities providing decent matchups against most opponents on the back end, but the safety spot will make or break the Aggies’ proud tradition of deflating any drive that falls behind on the sticks.
Fortunately, Utah State has another starting-caliber safety at the ready.
Shaq Bond’s season-ending knee injury came after eight quality starts and a spectacular full-field pick-six against New Mexico. The JUCO product established himself early in the year against Michigan State with a career-high nine tackles and should regain his starting spot this fall to further prove his big-play ability alongside Baron Gajkowski, providing a nice balance between speed and Gajkowski’s linebacker build.
Bond will also benefit from newly-hired safeties coach Mike Caputo, a former All-American safety at Wisconsin who spent the last two years as a defensive graduate assistant at LSU with former USU defensive coordinator Dave Aranda.