LOGAN — Judging from the recruits head coach Gary Andersen and his assistants signed this offseason, they had one goal in mind.
Get bigger, stronger, deeper and overall better in the trenches. Of the 26 players who have verbally committed to become Aggies, a whopping 14 are offensive or defensive linemen.
With the return of Robert Turbin, Stanley Morrison and Matt Austin from injury and the emergence of Kerwynn Williams and Kevin Bartlett, the Utah State offense has the weapons to become a dangerous unit.
To take that step the team will need the offensive line to continue its improvement after finishing a respectable 41st in the nation in rushing yards per game at 168.7.
With five new offensive linemen in the fold, the offense could take the next step forward.
How big of a step that is next season will also rest on the shoulders of the quarterback. With Diondre Borel lost to graduation, the competition for the top signal-caller spot will be a wide open.
The top contenders for the job are last year's backup Jeremy Higgins, and incoming recruits Chuckie Keeton and Adam Kennedy. Keeton is a true freshman from Cypress Creek High School in Dallas and is as comfortable running the ball as he is throwing. Kennedy, on the other hand, is more of a traditional drop-back passer, but can make plays with his feet if necessary.
On the defensive side of the ball the Aggies expect commitments from 17 players in an attempt to improve a defense that was 101st in the nation in points allowed (nearly 34 points per game).
Eight of the recruits will play defensive line. Included are big defensive tackles like the Al Lapuaho and Tenny Palepoi, who were teammates at Snow College last season and weigh a combined 605 pounds.
There is also a good mix of pass-rushing defensive ends and linebackers like the highly regarded Bojay Filimoeatu, the West Valley City native, who turned down offers from Big 12 and Pac-12 schools.
In the secondary the Aggies continued to get more athletic and talented with recruits like Terrence Alston, Peni Vea, LaBradford Harold and Ladale Jackson among others. Last year's Aggie secondary was decimated by injuries, which is a blessing for this year's team as the young freshmen from last season have already seen a lot of game time. Infusing their experience and talent with the incoming speed and athleticism from this recruiting class should spell good things for the defense.
Add all these improvements together and Utah State has the potential to contend in a wide-open WAC that will not include Boise State next season.
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