LOGAN — When former Utah State head coach Gary Andersen left for Wisconsin a year ago, many wondered if the pipeline of high-quality recruits heading to Logan would dry up or if new coach Matt Wells would be able to keep the momentum going.
As Wells prepares to announce his 2014 signing class on Wednesday afternoon, the early returns look promising for the Aggies.
Andersen built the Aggies' roster on a three-point recruiting attack of attracting in-state recruits, building a Polynesian pipeline and welcoming LDS missionaries into the program. Wells has continued building on that foundation while adding a touch of his own to his first complete class of recruits. The Aggies will again sign several players that won’t suit up for two more years as they serve missions for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and there are plenty of athletes of Polynesian descent as well.
Where the players are coming from, however, is changing under Wells, who has recruited players from all across the country.
To be sure, the state of Utah is still well-represented in Utah State's 2014 class, with at least eight players from the Beehive State expected to sign with USU. While previous coaching regimes at USU before Andersen never attempted to gain top-flight in-state recruits for fear of losing them to Utah or BYU, Andersen and now Wells have risen to the challenge. With less than 24 hours to go until signing day, Utah State was still battling for in-state recruits, most notably for East High tight end Joe Tukuafu, who changed his commitment from Utah to Utah State on Tuesday afternoon.
Outside of the state, the Aggies have continued to mine California for quality athletes, but Wells is leveraging his Midwest roots to open up a bigger pipeline into Texas. Among players from the high school football-crazy Lone Star State signing on with USU is Kent Myers, a 6-foot dual-threat quarterback that scored 97 touchdowns and threw for more than 6,000 yards over the last two seasons.
USU's coaching staff has also reopened its Florida connection. JoJo Natson, Travis Reynolds and Nevin Lawson are just a handful of players that committed to Utah State from Florida under Andersen and starred in Cache Valley.
USU struck out in Florida in its 2013 class, but coaches said they would be back this season. They've successfully recruited possibly five players from Florida for this class. Running back LaJuan Hunt helped his school to a state title in his junior year in Florida and has pledged to sign with USU. Tight end Marcus Mosely had offers from Big Ten, SEC and ACC schools but ultimately chose Utah State. Daniel Grey, a high school teammate of Reynolds and Natson, is transferring from Tennessee and should help ease the loss of Lawson next season.
The Aggies will need all the help they can get from this class if they want to repeat last year’s appearance in the Mountain West title game. USU finished 9-5 with a win in the Poinsettia Bowl. According to college football guru Phil Steele, the Aggies will return the fewest amount of starters in the country, meaning there will be a big need for young talent to make an early impact.
Kraig Williams is a 2010 Utah State University graduate and regular Deseret News sports blogger. He can be followed on Twitter @DesNewsKraig.