Sunday, July 9, 2017

Bilo's 2017 College Football Previews: Utah State Aggies

Utah State Aggies
A few short seasons ago, Matt Wells, the head coach of the Aggies, was one of the hottest names around in coaching circles, and everyone wanted to talk to him about open jobs they had. Now, the window on all of that seems closed, if only for the moment. It is true that Wells stock has slipped in a big way, as the Aggies have now won just nine games in two seasons. They now find themselves looking at trouble areas on both lines, and are trying to stop gap the issue with JC transfers and freshmen. With those issues so glaringly large, are the Aggies in a position to make due and push forward, or has the window on one of the more successful eras of Utah State football closed for the foreseeable future?
What To Be Excited About: Offense
Kent Myers returns to the fold at QB in 2017, and although his numbers were not great overall last fall, he still may be the best bet that the Aggies have of generating more offense than a year ago. He passed for 2389 yards and 10 TDs, but also tossed eight picks, and completed 58.4% of his passes. The offense will ride on his shoulders, and he will have a ton to carry.
Tony Lindsey returns at RB, and averaged 5.16 yards per carry, but really does need to be unleashed this fall after averaging just over 12 carries per game last fall. If the aggies can get more out of him (at least 15 carries per game), it may be a huge key to fixing some of the issues they had a year ago. He tied Myers and backup QB Damion Hobbs with six rushing TDs.
Ron'Quavion Tarver led the team in receiving last fall, and returns after catching 46 passes for 602 yards last season. Rayshad Lewis, the second leading receiver with 40 receptions, also returns, which gives the passing game half a chance to succeed this season.
What To Be Concerned About: Offense
The line returns just one starter in RT Preston Brooksby. The net has been flung far and wide for replacements and depth, but there just is not very much experience in this group, which could be what eventually does the team in. Two juniors (LT Roman Andrus and C Quin Ficklin), a sophomore (RG KJ Uluave), and a freshman (LG Ty Shaw) are all set to win starting jobs in camp battles this fall.
The PK job is being handed to Dominik Eberle full time after he participated in four games last season. He hit just 3/5 attempts, but that was in limited duty. It's time to see what he can do as a sophomore.
What To Be Excited About: Defense
The best part of this defense returns three starters, and that is the secondary. The Aggies ranked 11th nationally against the pass last season, so it is a good building block to start with. Jalen Davis is back at CB, while Dallin Leavitt and Jontrell Rocquemore are the returning Safeties. Davis was good for seven PBUs last fall at CB, while Leavitt finished with 57 tackles and Rocquemore finished with 40 tackles on the year. Leavitt finished with three INTs to lead the team as well.
Two starters are back at LB, one inside and one outside. Alex Huerta is back inside, while Derek Larson is back outside. Huerta finished with 45 tackles last fall, while Larson finished with 43. They will take over the leadership from departed starters Anthony Williams and Brock Carmen.
What To Be Concerned About: Defense
The Aggies employ a three man front, and only one starter returns in Ian Togiai. Togiai was not the most productive end in the land, as he finished with just three TFLs for a total of six yards. Sophomore Jacoby Wildman and junior Gasetoto Schuster are expected to win jobs at DE and NG respectively.
The Punting job is back in the hands of Aaron Dalton, but he struggled to a tune of an average of 37.87 yards per punt last fall.
2017 Schedule: 9/1 at Wisconsin, 9/7 Idaho State, 9/16 at Wake Forest, 9/23 at San Jose State, 9/29 BYU, 10/7 Colorado State, 10/14 Wyoming, 10/21 at UNLV, 10/28 Boise State, 11/4 at New Mexico, 11/18 Hawaii, 11/25 at Air Force
Final Overview
The Aggies have serious issues on both sides of the ball on the line, and really do not have enough consistency in the passing game. That is a major issue for a team that has slid down the ranks of the Mountain West the last two years. The pieces do not appear to be in place to escape the gravity well of the bottom of the highly competitive Mountain Division of the MWC, and Matt Wells and his staff are trying to find answers. The only real shot for the Aggies is if defensive shortcomings by both Air Force and New Mexico are bad enough to have those teams fall deeper than the Aggies this season, especially with a fairly brutal early schedule that includes three road trips in their first four games, and the home games are not exactly kind either. The three wins from last season are about all anyone could expect, and I believe that the team may only be favored once all season, and that would be in week two against Idaho State.

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