Whenever Utah State hosted football recruits this year, whether they were from Florida, Texas, Arizona or just down the street, coach Matt Wells got used to hearing a common refrain.
"Once you get a kid to campus, they always say, 'It's better than I thought,' " he said. "Structurally and facility-wise, we are improving. But the thing we always tell them is it's the people inside the buildings who count. Those systems and people are recruiting well for us."
Even in a year when Utah State lost its head coach, the Aggies were able to hold on to just about all of the recruits they had and even stretch out for a few more that they wouldn't have gotten a few years ago.
Why? Winning, for one. An 11-2 season still resounded for recruits. And many Aggie commits who spoke to The Salt Lake Tribune see Utah State continuing on that trajectory.
The program has a university president and athletic director who have helped shake off the burdens of debt. USU is moving to the Mountain West, ensuring big games and healthy competition for the foreseeable future. A new weight room and a partnership with Nike made the incoming class feel like the program is ready to stay competitive in the new conference.
That extra dimension combined with the collegiate feel of Logan and the university community to make some pretty good football players feel at home. The Aggies claimed some surprising swaps: Arizona quarterback Darell Garretson switched from San Jose State, and Hayden Weichers changed his mind from BYU.
"First and foremost, we recruit in-state kids, but I think wherever we've gone, we've been well-received," Wells said. "I think the biggest draw is a community and administration that is very supportive. The support we get here is unbelievable."
Perhaps most importantly for Wells, he's passed his big first test. Utah State was able to hold on to many of the prospects the program recruited under Gary Andersen. Despite Andersen's sudden flight to Wisconsin, only one recruit his son, Chasen Andersen, who had committed a few weeks before changed his destination.
Many recruits cited relationships with Wells prior to his promotion to head coach. Wells himself said the best approach to keeping those prospects was a direct one. Some of the guys who Utah State fought off bigger schools for late in the process included Tyshon Mosley, Joe Malanga and Marwin Evans.
"The challenge was to settle their minds," he said. "We let them know of the continuity and be honest and open with them. And we didn't lose one guy who had been with us through the summer."
Specifically, this class will go a long way to shore up the offensive line and receiving corps. Wells also pointed to depth in the secondary and the quarterback positions as big areas the Aggies addressed.
Utah State's projected class
Player Hometown HS/JC Pos Ht/Wt Comment
Ricky Ali'ifua San Leandro, Calif. San Leadro HS DT 6-3/270 Returned missionary who could rotate in
Cody Boyer St. George Pine View HS OL 6-6/280 Blocked for a 2,000-yard rusher in HS
Ronald Butler Jersey City, N.J. Contra Costa CC WR 6-0/190 Gives receiving corps explosiveness and speed
Andrew Chen Calabasas, Calif. Chaminade Prep OL 6-3/275 Finally ready to suit up for Aggies
Marwin Evans Oak Creek, Wis. Highland CC DB 6-1/195 Rangy cover man snubbed Wisconsin
Tyler Fox Layton Layton HS WR 5-11/165 Athletic pass catcher could develop
Darell Garretson Chandler, Ariz. Chandler HS QB 6-0/200 Big arm who switched from San Jose State
Wyatt Houston Tualatin, Ore. Horizon Christian HS TE 6-4/220 Quick-witted receiver who was HS quarterback
Karris Johnson San Ramon, Calif. California HS RB 6-1/205 Another big body in the backfield
Jeremy Morris Chandler, Ariz. Mesa CC DB 5-10/180 Fleet-footed ballhawk gives depth
Tyshon Mosley Sandy Jordan HS OL 6-5/315 Pac-12 programs had late interest in bulky blocker
Joe Malanga West Jordan Bingham HS OL 6-5/260 Turned down Oregon State to stay home
Brandon Takeiaho West Jordan Bingham HS OL 6-4/315 Returned missionary has big potential
Ryan Watson Decatur, Ala. Goldman West JC WR 6-0/180 Expected to hit the ground running
Hayden Weichers West Jordan Bingham HS WR 6-0/170 Ex-BYU commit might make early impact