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Marcio Jose Sanchez, AP
San Jose State running back Jason Simpson (32) is tackled by Utah State linebacker Zach Vigil during the first half of an NCAA college football game Friday, Sept. 27, 2013, in San Jose, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

The linebacking corps is the heart of the Utah State defense — and might be the strongest position group on the team.

Two of the four projected starting linebackers earned second-team all-MWC honors and another starter is coming off a breakout season as a freshman.

The Aggies lost all-MWC first-teamer Jake Doughty, but new linebackers coach Joe Lorig said he's excited about coaching this group.

"Those are big shoes to fill there, but I feel really good about Zach Vigil, Nick Vigil and Kyler Fackrell," he said. "They're going to be a tremendous tandem. They need to stay humble and hungry. There's lots of room for improvement, but they are very good players."

Returning experience

Starting outside linebackers Kyler Fackrell (6-foot-5, 245 pounds) and Nick Vigil (6-2, 230) return to the Aggies after recording a combined 139 tackles and seven sacks for the No. 7-rated defense (points allowed) in FBS. Lorig has moved Nick Vigil to the inside to replace Doughty and pair up with his older brother, Zach Vigil (6-2, 232). Zach is a senior, Nick is a sophomore, and Fackrell is a junior with 27 starts under his belt. All have been playing significant minutes since their freshman year.

Still, should any of these players go down, there is a lot of experience ready to step up.

Four juniors with a combined six years experience are listed on the depth chart: Torrey Green (6-2, 220), Michael Okonkwo (6-1, 222), Jarom Baldomero (6-0, 230) and La'Bradford Harold (5-11, 225).

Key newcomers

The other starting outside linebacker spot will be contested by two freshmen, Alex Huerta (6-2, 223) and Ian Togiai (6-2, 230). True freshman Chase Christiansen (6-2, 210) could also see minutes at inside linebacker.


The breakout linebacker in 2014 will likely come from whoever wins the starting job between Huerta and Togiai. Huerta red-shirted last season after a being a standout player for Mountain Crest. Togiai, on the other hand, is a true freshman who starred on Hunter's football and rugby teams.

General outlook

The college football experts have weighed in — the strength of a very strong defense, lies in the linebacking corps. USU linebackers have been put on seven award watch lists including five for Fackrell and two for Zach Vigil. Expectations are high.

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