Utah State Football: Three Questions For Spring Practice

Utah State Football: Three Questions For Spring Practice

Mountain West Football

Utah State Football: Three Questions For Spring Practice


Utah State Football: Three Questions For Spring Practice

The defending Mountain West champions have plenty on their to-do list to stay on top.

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The target is now squarely USU’s back.

Repeating as conference champions in the Mountain West is hard to do. Since its formation in 1999, just four teams have won outright back-to-back titles: Utah (2003-04), BYU (2006-07), TCU (2009-11), and San Diego State (2015-16).

If Blake Anderson needed any perspective for his new Aggies to keep in mind, that might be it. The hard work it takes to defend a championship starts from the very first day of spring practice and there won’t be any time for Utah State to rest on last year’s laurels.

Who will Logan Bonner throw to now?

The Aggies thrived on big plays from their pass catchers in 2021, so the business of replacing Deven Thompkins, Derek Wright and Brandon Bowling is no small task. Justin McGriff (35 catches, 414 yards, six touchdowns) figures to hold onto his role, but the competition for roles should be wide open beyond him.

Kyle Van Leeuwen, who impressed through spring and fall practices in 2021 but ended up catching just eight passes during the season, remains an intriguing option who could make an impact in the slot. Transfer portal arrivals like Brian Cobbs and Xavier Williams should also receive plenty of opportunity to establish themselves, but they’ll have to compete with a raft of up-and-comers like Quinton Hadnot.

Who will step up and lead the defensive line?

The Aggies’ ability to rush the quarterback took a little while to come around last season, but they ended up collecting 23 of their 32 sacks after October 30 and finished with a flourish in the Jimmy Kimmel LA Bowl thanks to Nick Heninger’s three takedowns.

Now, though, Heninger (nine sacks, 21.5 tackles for loss), Jaylen Bannerman (two sacks, 4.5 TFLs), and Marcus Moore (one sack, 10.5 TFLs) have all moved on, taking a significant chunk of last year’s production with them. More will be expected of veterans like Byron Vaughns, Patrick Joyner Jr., and Hale Motu’apuaka, but the not-so-secret ingredient to Utah State’s success last fall is that it was clearly a team effort, meaning that expectations should also be accordingly high for last year’s bit players, too, like Poukesi Vakauta (four TFLs, two fumbles recovered).

What will the secondary look like?

The Aggies will have some familiar faces returning to the defensive backfield, like Michael Anyanwu and Dominic Tatum, but cornerback in particular could feature a lot of open competition after both Zahodri Jackson and Cam Lampkin left the program via the transfer portal.

Interestingly, Ajani Carter is now listed as a cornerback on the 2022 spring roster after being tabbed as a linebacker last season. Andre Grayson also returns for one last ride, as well, so depth isn’t the issue as much as determining who could win starting roles for the long run.



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