Will Aggies football success in 2012 lead to brighter 2013?
The Aggies have been off the gridiron for nearly a month, but the football season at large came to a close on Tuesday.
Utah State finished ranked No. 16 in the AP poll and No. 17 in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches' poll, what should be satisfactory rankings for an Aggies squad that went 11-2 this year with a WAC championship and a bowl victory.
Cut it out and put it in the scrapbook, because the last time Utah State football ended a season nationally ranked, new head coach Matt Wells had not yet been born.
Some of the programs the unheralded Aggies finished above: Oregon State, Nebraska, Texas. Even Oklahoma, according to the AP poll. That's quite a year.
But the question has quickly moved to the follow-up: Will the Aggies be able to keep that up?
The pressing issue of who will lead Utah State into the Mountain West Conference is still be answered as Wells finishes up his coaching staff. The members he's brought on are mostly young, energetic assistants who also have value as recruiters. He's also brought on Mark Weber from BYU, who has a reputation as a players' coach.
The selections seem to show a coaching style that trades experience on the staff in favor of enthusiasm and continuing to build an enticing player-centric environment in Logan.
"Coach em hard, love em hard," Wells said at his introductory press conference. "That's what we'll do."
There's also the matter of talent returning: Of Utah State's 17 all-WAC honorees last year, 10 are back. That includes quarterback Chuckie Keeton, but also three offensive linemen who were all-conference in 2012. The defensive front seven should be stout, as Jake Doughty, Kyler Fackrell, Jordan Nielsen and Zach Vigil all return - and those last three all have at least two seasons ahead.
At receiver and in the defensive backfield, there's likely to be new faces. And it will be intriguing to follow Joe Hill and other running backs as they try to fill the shoes of Kerwynn Williams.
More questions include how the Aggies stack up against the best of the Mountain West. They could very well be a winner in a new conference, but toe-to-toe match-ups with the likes of Boise State again will be tough and could bruise Utah State's newfound confidence if they don't go well.
The job for Wells is not the same as it was for Gary Andersen four years ago. Whereas Andersen sought to build, Wells must at least maintain while looking for new avenues for Utah State to succeed in. How he recruits, how he brings in donors and attention will all be mixed in with winning - and winning will subsequently feed those other aspects.
With the final polls, it's time to bid adieu to a football season that should always hold fond memories for Aggies fans. What lies ahead could be just as interesting to witness.
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Kyle Goonkgoon@sltrib.comTwitter: @kylegoon
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