LOGAN — It seems that every football coach thinks that their most recent haul of athletes on national signing day is the best they’ve seen. For new Utah State head coach Matt Wells, that’s not hyperbole.
The first-year head coach brought in what, on paper, looks to be one of the best hauls Utah State has seen. Wells was able to carry over nearly all the recruits that had committed to previous head coach Gary Andersen and snagged a couple of big signees of his own to make up the 2013 class.
“The first thing I want to say about this class is that they remained very, very loyal. They were a dedicated class,” Wells said at a press conference announcing the 2013 signees. “With the transition that happened right after the bowl game we had quite a few of these kids committed, and they stuck with us.
“They had not just loyalty to a certain coach like me or Gary (Andersen), but to the university, the football program and the direction we are going.”
Andersen may be gone, but the principles that he recruited with, going hard after in-state players and working with LDS missionaries, remain under Wells. Utah State signed 12 players from Utah, including three home-grown Cache Valley players from Logan High School in kicker Jake Thompson and defensive linemen Caden Andersen and Jacoby Wildman.
“This program has been built on (in-state recruiting) for the last four years. That won’t change,” Wells said. “They have been the bedrock of the program.”
By the numbers, Utah State brought in a class of 24 signees, 16 from high schools, six from junior colleges and two returned LDS missionaries. Five of the high school commits, Andersen, Wildman, linebacker Braden Harris, tight end Dax Raymond and safety Zach Swenson, are scheduled to serve LDS missions before enrolling at Utah State.
“I think as our first recruiting class we’ve added some size and some skill in the back end,” Wells said.
Perhaps the most immediate impact in the 2013 class will come from a pair of skill player teammates at Contra Costa College that signed up to be Aggies. Running back Rashad Hall signed with Colorado out of high school but was forced to go the junior college route where he ran for 1,402 yards and 16 touchdowns for the Comets. With running back Kerwynn Williams gone to graduation, Hall could challenge incumbent Joe Hill for snaps.
“When you watch his (Hall's) tape, he never lets the first guy bring him down. He’s got a strong lower body, home run speed and good hands out of the backfield,” Wells said.
Wide receiver Ronald Butler caught 55 passes for 870 yards and a school-record 13 touchdowns last season and was getting looks from Texas and Iowa State before signing on with USU. The Aggies graduated their top five pass catchers from last season, leaving the wide receiver spot wide open.
“Thirteen receiving touchdowns is a lot of touchdowns,” Wells said of Butler. “He has speed and the ability to high-point a football. He has really good ball skills.”
Also of note are five high school offensive linemen as Wells builds up the trenches to prepare for a few upcoming graduations and the impending move to the Mountain West Conference.
“That’s encouraging to beef up that area,” Wells said. “They are young kids that we are going to be able to develop as the years go on. We are really top heavy with senior and junior offensive linemen with our roster right now.”
Wells may be done recruiting players, but he is still on the search for a few more coaches to join his staff. Utah State is still down a defensive coordinator and running backs coach. Interviews for the positions are still in the process.
“We’ve talked to some people and we have more people coming in. Just trying to find the right fit and the right chemistry with the staff is most important to me,” Wells said. “I truly believe that a great decision tomorrow is better than a good one today.”
Kraig Williams is a 2010 Utah State University graduate and regular Deseret News sports blogger. He can be followed on Twitter at DesNewsKraig.