Utah State football: If not top defense, Aggies have best linebacker corps in Mountain West Conference

Published: Thursday, Oct. 31 2013 6:08 p.m. MDT

Utah State Aggies linebacker Jake Doughty (51) brings down Utah Utes wide receiver Anthony Denham (8) during NCAA football in Salt Lake City Thursday, Aug. 29, 2013. Utah won 30-26.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Elizabeth Barrett was so in love with Robert Browning that she wrote 44 sonnets about it.

The 43rd was Sonnets of the Portuguese, published in 1850. The way she started it rings abroad today:

“How do I love thee, let me count the ways.”

Barrett then provides many reasons why she wants to marry Browning, which happened in 1846. They are related to sun and candlelight, her childhood’s faith, “lost saints,” smiles and tears.

Numbers-wise, we can also count the many ways why Utah State has the best defense and certainly linebackers in the Mountain West Conference.

The Aggies lead the league in third-down conversion percentage defense, fumbles recovered, total defense, scoring defense, passing yards allowed and passing defense. They are second in rushing defense and pass efficiency defense and are third in team tackles for loss. They rank 18th in the nation in total defense (345.3 yards per game) and 22nd in scoring defense. The next MWC teams in those categories? San Diego State (407.6 ypg) at 76th and Boise State (24.6 ppg) at 55th, respectively.

As safety Brian Suite acknowledged, unbeaten Fresno State may be the best team in the MWC overall. But it’s hardly an argument that USU is best on one side of the ball.

Even if it is, one particular unit is far and away the best such group in the league. With linebackers Jake Doughty, Zach Vigil and Kyler Fackrell, the Aggies have at least three playmakers in the unit when teams usually just have one, Suite also told the Deseret News. “You can’t overstate how important that is,” he said.

We won’t, then. Doughty, a senior, ranks third in the Mountain West Conference and eighth in the nation with an average of 11.1 tackles per game. Vigil, a junior, ranks fifth in the league and 65th in the nation in fumbles forced (0.25 per game), sixth in the MWC and 40th in the nation in tackles (9.1 pg), seventh in the league and 58th in the nation in fumbles recovered (0.25 pg) and 16th in sacks (0.8 pg). Fackrell, just a sophomore, is fifth in the MWC and 65th in the nation in fumbles forced (0.25 pg), eighth in the league in sacks (0.5 pg), 10th in the MWC in tackles for loss (1.1 pg) and 34th in the league in tackles (6.2 pg). (Safety Maurice Alexander also ranks high in fumbles forced, tackles for loss and tackles.)

No other team has two linebackers in the top six in the MWC in tackles, and only Colorado State and Wyoming join USU in the top 10. Only Wyoming and Hawaii join the Aggies with three linebackers in the top 25. (Alexander is 26th in the league in tackles, with 6.6 per game.)

Among the 10 players listed on TheMW.com, no other team boasts two linebackers in the top five in the MWC in fumbles forced — and Vigil and Fackrell aren’t listed. (Alexander is, with 0.25 per game.)

Among the 10 players listed among the top seven players in fumbles recovered, Vigil is one of just two who are linebackers.

Fackrell is just one of five linebackers in the MWC with four or more sacks for an average of 0.5 or better. He is tied for third overall.

USU is joined only by Hawaii as having two linebackers in the top 20 in the MWC in tackles for loss. Fackrell and Vigil are two of nine linebackers in the league to average 0.81 TFLs or more per game. (Alexander is 18th with 0.75.)

We have counted the ways: call this Sonnets of Aggie Nation.

Rhett Wilkinson is a project manager for Utah Policy Daily and Utah State University alum. The co-founder of magazine AggieBluePrint.com, he has interned for the Deseret News (features, business, editorial). rhett.wilkinson@yahoo.com | Twitter: @wilk

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