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."
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).
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.
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.