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 Aggies didn’t have the title defense they envisioned in 2022. What are the biggest puzzles which need to be solved in order to get back on track next fall?

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Down, but not out if they can help it.

The Utah State Aggies begin their spring football practices today at something of a crossroads. Despite winning the Mountain West championship in 2021, Blake Anderson’s team fell off in 2022 and then absorbed a huge exodus of talent to graduations and the transfer portal in the early part of this off-season.

Needless to say, getting back on track is going to involve a lot of work on a lot of fronts. With just ten starters back from last season, there are plenty of questions to resolve, but which ones stand out the most right now?

Who will help replenish the front seven?

Utah State has seen a ton of upheaval among its defensive line and linebackers this off-season. Byron Vaughns, Patrick Joyner Jr., Daniel Grzesiak, AJ Vongphachanh and others have moved on, which is a significant collective loss for a defense that finished the year ranked 40th in the FBS with a 7.3% sack rate and 27th with a 21.4% stuff rate despite allowing 5.75 yards per play.

It isn’t all grim news, though. MJ Tafisi is back as a veteran anchor in the middle while Hale Motu’apuaka and Poukesi Vakuata will bring plenty of experience on the interior of the line once again. A number of spots on the two-deep should be up for grabs, however, especially among would-be edge rushers since the only returner who saw extensive playing time a year ago was junior John Ward, who managed five hurries in just over 100 snaps.

Who will help the passing game get vertical as an outside receiver?

Between Terrell Vaughn and the return of Kyle Van Leeuwen from a season-ending injury, the Aggies are pretty well-stocked with slot receivers. Brian Cobbs and Justin McGriff are gone, though, meaning their 177 combined targets from 2022 will need to go somewhere. Others who could have stepped up to replace them have also left, like Quinton Hadnot and NyNy Davis, so while plenty of options remain on hand to replace that top duo, there are few established ones.

Former Air Force receiver Micah Davis, who spent last season at Iowa Western Community College, is an intriguing option, as is former three-star recruit Otto Tia, who spent last year behind Cobbs on the depth chart. Turning back to the roster’s legion of tight ends is another path: Josh Sterzer and Broc Lane only combined for 24 targets, but it wasn’t so long ago that Utah State made good use of the likes of Carson Terrell and Dax Raymond from that position. Newly promoted co-offensive coordinator Kyle Cafelo will certainly be one of the conference’s busiest assistants this spring because of this variety.

How will the offensive line restock itself?

After boasting one of the more experienced units anywhere in the Mountain West last year, Utah State’s offensive line will look a lot different in 2023 with Alfred Edwards, Jacob South, Weylin Lapuaho, and Chandler Dolphin all gone. A few big building blocks remain, like Wade Meachem, Falepule Alo, and Cole Motes, but two starting spots at a minimum could be open for competition.

Calvin Knapp spent last year as Edwards’ backup and only played 15 snaps according to Pro Football Focus, but it seems like he’ll get the opportunity to establish himself at left tackle. Highly touted 2023 recruit Jr Sia could play a role when he arrives in the fall, too. In the meantime, it may be that we’ll get more familiar with depth pieces from last year like Elia Migao, Wyatt Bowles, and Teague Andersen, as well, so this race could go in any number of directions between now and August.



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