#72 Utah State Football 2016 Preview

Utah State Aggies
Overall Rank: #72
#4 Mountain West
Utah State struggled with injuries last season, but still managed to reach a bowl game for the fifth straight year. This is a program that is now a perennial contender in the Mountain West, regardless of who is on the sidelines or who is under center. Heading into the 2016 campaign, Coach Matt Wells has some rebuilding to do, but in the end expect the Aggies to be bowling for the sixth straight time.
2015 Record: 6-7, 5-3
2015 Bowl: Famous Idaho Potato Bowl vs. Akron (L 21-23)
Coach: Matt Wells (25-16 at Utah State, 25-16 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Like Wells, Jovon Bouknight
Defensive Coordinator: Kendrick Shaver, Frank Maile
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Devante Mays, RB, 966 yards
Passing: Kent Myers, QB, 1,593 yards
Receiving: Wyatt Houston, TE, 307 yards
Tackles: Jalen Davis, CB, 51
Sacks: Ricky Ali’ifua, DE, 3.0
Interceptions: Devin Centers, S, 3; Jalen Davis, CB, 3
Other Key Returnees: RB LaJuan Hunt, OL Austin Albrecht, OL Jake Simonich, OL Austin Stephens
Key Losses: QB Chuckie Keeton, WR Hunter Sharp, WR Devonte Robinson, LB Nick Vigil, LB Kyler Fackrell, LB LT Filiaga, S Marwin Evans, DL David Moala
To reach another bowl game, Utah State will have to rely heavily on their experienced offense. Quarterback Chuckie Keeton is gone after a long and productive collegiate career, but we already know what his backup, Kent Myers, can do. Myers played in nine games in 2015 while Keeton was sidelined with an injury. During those nine contests, Myers threw for 1,593 yards and 16 touchdowns, while being intercepted just three times. If that was not impressive enough, he also ran for 356 yards and three scores. Now a junior, Myers is more than ready to make this his team. There are questions at receiver though, with Hunter Sharp and Devonte Robinson gone. Tight end Wyatt Houston will be a steadying force in the passing game, but somebody must emerge as a deep threat. Coach Wells wants to run the ball first though and that should be easy with the return of a talented stable of running backs and an experienced offensive line. Devante Mays rushed for 966 yards and nine touchdowns in 2015 and he should be the 1,000 yard rusher that the Aggies are looking for. LaJuan Hunt, Tonny Lindsey and Justen Hervey are all capable backs who can eat into Mays’ yardage total. Hunt is the most experienced of that group, rushing for 338 yards and five scores last season.
It is on the defensive side of the ball where Utah State has a lot of questions. After years of sporting a dominating defense, the Aggies have to find a way to replace linebackers, Nick Vigil, Kyler Fackrell, LT Filiaga and Torrey Green. Vigil recorded 144 tackles last year, while Fackrell was one of the best rush linebackers in the country. Both were selected in the third round of the 2016 NFL Draft. Replacing talent and production like that is not easy and it does not help that both of the other starting linebackers are gone too. The coaching staff felt good enough about their unproven talent at the position to not grab junior college transfers to help fill the void, but there is absolutely no way the linebackers will dominate nearly as much as they have the last couple of years. Meanwhile, the defensive focus will shift to the more experienced front three and back four. The line will welcome the return of Travis Seefeldt, who missed last year after suffering injuries in a car accident. Ricky Ali’ifua should emerge as the main pass rushing threat among the linemen. The secondary will center around senior free safety Devin Centers and junior cornerback Jalen Davis.
The Bottom Line:
With all of the talent Utah State had, last year was disappointing. It was a better team than their 6-7 record indicated. Part of the problem was winning away from home, but injuries were plentiful too. It is easy to look at Utah State and assume they are going to take a big step back with Keeton and all of the talented linebackers gone. That would be true if the Aggies had lived up to their potential in 2015. But they didn’t and even though the defense will be young, they will still be productive and help the potent offense lead Utah State to yet another bowl game.
Projected Bowl: Famous Idaho Potato Bowl
2015 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 165.1 (71st in nation, 10th in conference)
Passing Offense: 205.5 (88, 5)
Total Offense: 370.6 (93, 9)
Scoring Offense: 29.0 (64, 6)
Rushing Defense: 151.9 (47, 4)
Pass Defense: 180.5 (12, 4)
Total Defense: 332.5 (17, 3)
Scoring Defense: 26.7 (61, 4)
Turnover Margin: -0.15 (84, 6)
Sacks: 2.08 (67, 6)
Sacks Allowed: 1.62 (42, 5)


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