#100 Utah State Football 2017 Preview

Utah State Aggies
Overall Rank: #100
#9 Mountain West
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Utah State took another step back in 2016 and this time it was a big step back that resulted in a very disappointing 3-9 campaign. There were some close losses in there so Coach Matt Wells’ team may not be as bad as that record would indicate, but there are some big holes to fill as well. The Aggies are a bit of a wildcard in the Mountain West. They could have an explosive offense and the defense was usually alright last season. That could turn their season around in a hurry. Or the Aggies could take yet another step back.
2016 Record: 3-9, 1-7
2016 Bowl: None
Coach: Matt Wells (28-25 at Utah State, 28-25 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: David Yost
Defensive Coordinator: Frank Maile, Kendrick Shaver
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Tonny Lindsey Jr, RB, 763 yards
Passing: Kent Myers, QB, 2,389 yards
Receiving: Ron’quavion Tarver, WR, 602 yards
Tackles: Dallin Leavitt, S, 57
Sacks: Chase Christiansen, LB, 2.0; Ian Togiai, DE, 2; Jalen Davis, CB, 2.0
Interceptions: Dallin Leavitt, S, 3
Other Key Returnees: WR Rashad Lewis, P Aaron Dalton
Key Losses: TE Wyatt Houston, WR Andrew Rodriguez, OL Austin Albrecht, LB Anthony Williams, LB Brock Carmen, S Devin Centers, DE Ricky Ali’ifua, DL Travis Seefeldt
New coordinator David Yost will hope to reignite an offense that has some talent. Utah State often gave up on the ground game last season and that could be the case again in 2017. It is not like the rushing attack was that bad and Tonny Lindsey is back after rushing for a team high 763 yards. Quarterback Kent Myers added 449 yards on the ground. He also threw for 2,389 yards and ten touchdowns. Myers has the experience and the scrambling ability, but his spot as the starter is not guaranteed. Redshirt freshman Jordan Love is a better passer and could be an interesting option. Wide receivers Ron’quavion Tarver, who caught 46 passes for 602 yards, and Rayshad Lewis, who added 40 catches for 476 yards, were Myers’ favorite targets in 2016 and will likely be again in 2017. As long as the new coaching staff’s scheme is effective and the offensive line can rebuild, Utah State’s offense should be much improved. At the skill positions, they have more talent and experience than many squads in the Mountain West and that could lead to a big year.
The defense ranked third in the conference in yards allowed. That was promising. But there is a lot to replace in a front seven that was susceptible to teams with good rushers. Defensive end Ian Togiai could develop into a consistent force in the opposing backfield, but he will need some help from new faces on the line. Chase Christiansen was having a pretty good year before he got hurt and will look to lead a new look linebacker corps. It is in the secondary where Utah State really shines. It was extremely difficult for anybody to throw against the Aggies in 2016 and that should be the case again. Cornerbacks Wesley Bailey, Jalen Davis and Cameron Haney give Coach Wells plenty of experience and talent. Dallin Leavitt is the leader at safety after recording 57 tackles and three interceptions. Jontrell Rocquemore and Gaje Ferguson got more than enough experience last year to replace the departed Devin Centers. In the end, it will come down to the front seven. If they are good enough to make it so the opposition cannot just run their way to victory, the Utah State defense will start looking really good.
The Bottom Line:
Utah State is not going to get back to where they were in 2011 and 2012, but this can be a program that can still consistently compete in the Mountain West. If that is going to happen, they better take a pretty big step forward. Coach Wells is getting close to being on the hot seat and he will certainly be there if this group fails to make a bowl. And the schedule may not help the cause. While it is nice to get Boise State, Colorado State and Wyoming at home, those teams may be out of Utah State’s league right now. They cannot afford to lose those games and expect to reach a bowl. San Jose State, UNLV, New Mexico and Air Force may not be the best teams in the Mountain West, but none of them will be that easy for USU on the road. And the Aggies may have to beat all four of them just to get to six wins.
Projected Bowl: None
2016 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 170.5 (69th in nation, 9th in conference)
Passing Offense: 205.8 (93, 8)
Total Offense: 376.3 (96, 11)
Scoring Offense: 23.9 (108, 11)
Rushing Defense: 203.3 (91, 6)
Pass Defense: 176.5 (11, 3)
Total Defense: 379.8 (44, 3)
Scoring Defense: 29.3 (73, 5)
Turnover Margin: -0.42 (98, 9)
Sacks: 1.83 (86, 8)
Sacks Allowed: 2.33 (85, 10)