Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
Aggies aiming to build on success
Utah State football » After big turnaround in recent seasons, USU will strive for consistency.
First Published Dec 29 2013 06:58 pm • Last Updated Dec 29 2013 11:12 pm

It was five years ago when athletic director Scott Barnes and then-coach Gary Andersen crafted a vision statement for the struggling Utah State football program.

The Aggies wanted to compete for conference championships. They wanted to win bowl games. In the previous 15 years, the program hadn’t done much of either.

At a glance

Utah State football’s 2013 acheivements

» Third straight winning season and bowl berth

» Won Mountain Division to play for conference title

» Topped Northern Illinois in the Poinsettia Bowl

» Matt Wells was conference coach of the year

» 14 Aggies made all-conference teams

Position-by-position key returners

Quarterback » Chuckie Keeton, Darell Garretson

Running back » Joe Hill

Tight ends » Keegan Andersen, Wyatt Houston

Receivers »  Brandon Swindall, Jojo Natson, Ronald Butler

Offensive line » Kevin Whimpey, Bill Vauvau

Defensive line » B.J. Larsen, Jordan Nielsen, Ricky Ali’ifua

Linebackers »  Zach Vigil, Kyler Fackrell, Nick Vigil

Secondary » Brian Suite, Jeremy Morris

Specialists » Nick Diaz, Jaron Bentrude, Jake Thompson

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

Coaches, players and conferences have turned over, but the vision remains. The Aggies just wrapped up a 9-5 year in the Mountain West, in which they played in the conference championship and had one of the biggest bowl wins in program history.

But this, the Utah State brass have suggested, is not the peak — at least not one they envisioned. There’s more to do, and the Aggies will have a busy offseason trying to make sure they can keep winning.

"What we have, you can’t ever rest on your laurels," Barnes said. "You always got to be sharp, you always got to be working harder than the next guy. But I think what we have is very sustainable. And the level we’re at suggests that we can continue to improve and grow."

In coach Matt Wells’ first year, the program found ways to keep winning in conference games despite more injuries than they imagined. Like a car that has run down its treads, the Aggies were sputtering to the finish in terms of health, but still had something to celebrate when they got there.

But the challenge now is to refit the car.

Utah State must step up to replace the winningest senior class in program history. Eight seniors were all-conference honorees, and all three first-teamers — center Tyler Larsen, cornerback Nevin Lawson and linebacker Jake Doughty — are gone.

The offensive line and secondary will have to be nearly rebuilt, with only one starter returning for each. Chunks of the defensive line are gone, and so are the Aggies’ top two receiving threats this year. Other key pieces to next year’s team, such as quarterback Chuckie Keeton, are coming off of season-ending injuries.

As always, younger players and recruits will have to come into new roles. The coaching staff is hoping that some of the culture that’s developed over the last few years has soaked in to the younger group.

story continues below
story continues below

"I don’t know if we are there yet; we will know in a year or two," Wells said. "Those guys have to buy into that and they have to understand that that’s what it takes, and how they act."

With a head coach solidly in place, players from two bowl-winning teams returning, and the recently built weight room available throughout the offseason this year, the Aggies do have factors edging in their favor. The program knows it can compete in the Mountain West, and the confidence from a 21-14 win over Northern Illinois in the Poinsettia Bowl could keep momentum surging in Logan.

The schedule next season is potentially a hefty one, with 13 games and some of the toughest opponents on the road. But Wells, Barnes and others at the top of the football program believe it will continue to build on its established foothold.

The Aggies expect to win.

"I think the model that we have here has proven to be true," Wells said. "It’s not a one-year flash in the pan. It wasn’t last year, and I think that we proved that again this year."

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment

About Reader Comments

Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Access your e-Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.