The Gary Andersen era began in earnest for Utah State football when he was introduced with much fanfare in December. One of the main reasons he was hired, athletic director John Hartwell said at the time, was due to his familiarity with the program and his ability to recruit.
On Wednesday’s National Signing Day, Andersen completed the final phase of his return as head coach of the Aggies, ushering in a new class of players to hopefully bolster the squad that won the New Mexico Bowl just a few short months ago.
“A lot of success in this class, we believe,” Andersen said.
Utah State brought in several players with local ties to the state — 12 in all. Andersen said recruiting locally was the first stage of the process and he feels the team had success with that. One of those locals is Cooper Legas, the two-time state champion quarterback of Orem High.
Legas tallied nearly 10,000 passing yards in his four-year career after playing only three games as a freshman. He led Orem to a 4A title last season.
Legas joins a depth chart at quarterback that includes Jordan Love, who had a breakout season at the position for the Aggies in 2018. Andersen believes Love will have a “fantastic” junior season, but also said Legas should be able to vie for some time at QB this season.
“He’s a champion [at] everything he does,” Andersen said of Legas. “The guy wakes up and I think he drives to work and he’s a champion and he wins. Everything he does, he takes first place.”
Legas will have a familiar face join him at USU in teammate Hunter Hill, who served as an offensive lineman and team captain for Orem. Andersen said he had been recruiting Hill since his time coaching at the University of Utah. When he took the job at USU, one of the first phones call he made was to Hill, he said.
Hill had committed to Washington State, but changed his mind and considered offers from various schools, one of which was USC. But he chose the Aggies.
“I think our relationship and the time we had that relationship with Hunter was what gave us the opportunity to win that recruiting battle in the end,” Andersen said.
Another productive local player who inked with the Aggies is Bronson Olevao of Highland High. The running back went all out his senior year, amassing 702 rushing yards and 187 passing yards.
Utah State’s running back rotation is a bit thinner with last year’s leading rusher, Darwin Thompson, declaring for the NFL draft. It’s possible Olevao could see some playing time at the position in 2019, but he’ll have to compete with Jaylen Warren, a transfer from Snow College.
Andersen said Warren is a “tremendous” complement to running back Gerold Bright. Warren brought in 15 TDs and averaged 159.4 rushing yards per game while at Snow.
“They’re the same but they’re different, if you will,” Andersen said of the potential running back pairing. “We love that.”
Sonny Makasini and Kaleo Neves will come in from Timpview High, where they largely played roles on defense and at the line of scrimmage. Mo Manu, who went to high school in Bountiful, will transfer from Mt. SAC in California.
It appears that defense was a big priority in this recruiting class. He signed five defensive backs and five linebackers. Two of those linebackers are Moa and Neves.
In all, Andersen’s first recruiting class since taking the job consists of 30 players, 26 of which are coming straight from high school. Fourteen of those recruits signed in December, including Sione Moa and Pierce Callister of Weber High, Jackson Owens of East High and Aaron Bredsguard of Viewmont High.
USU’S 2019 SIGNEES
• Christian LaValle, 5-11, 240; LB from Mission Viejo, Calif. (Mission Viejo High School)
• Aric Davison, 6-3, 315; OL from Richland, Wash. (Richland High School)
• Jaymason Willingham, 6-0, 215; LB from Lacey, Wash. (Steilacoom High School)
Cam Lampkin, 5-9, 165; WR from Mesquite, Texas (Poteet High School)
• Josh Calvin, 6-2, 190; QB from Corona, Calif. (Mayfair High School)
• Simon Thompson, 6-3, 200; LB from Salem, Ore. (West Salem High School)
• Ashton Adams, 6-3, 320; OL from Salem, Ore. (South Salem High School)
• Keith Harris, 5-11, 170; DB from Lawndale, Calif. (Leuzinger High School)
• Aaron Bredsguard, 6-3, 225; Bountiful, Utah (Viewmont High School)
• Jesse Vasquez, 6-1, 225; LS from Thousand Oaks, Calif. (Oaks Christian School)
• Pierce Callister, 6-0, 170; P from Ogden, Utah (Weber High School)
• Dean Rice, 6-2, 295; DL from Yuba City, Calif. (River Valley High School)
• Sione Moa, 6-1, 180; LB from Ogden, Utah (Weber High School)
• Jackson Owens, 6-4, 290; OL from Salt Lake City, Utah (East High School)
• Ajani Carter, 6-1, 185; WR from Houston, Texas (North Shore High School)
• Sonny Makasini, 6-3, 315, OL from Provo, Utah (Timpview High School)
• Jaylen Warren, 5-8, 225; RB from Salt Lake City, Utah (Snow College)
• Troy Lefeged 6-0, 185; DB from Montgomery Village, Maryland (Fullerton College)
• Mo Manu, 6-4 260; TE from West Bountiful, Utah (Mt. San Antonio JC)
• Cash Gilliam, 6-0, 195; DB from Dayton, Ohio (Arizona Western College)
• Dominic Tatum, 6-2, 180; DB from Culver City, Calif. (Culver City High School)
• Cooper Legas, 6-2, 210; QB from Orem, Utah (Orem High School)
• Bronson Olevao, 6-1, 185; DB from Salt Lake City, Utah (Highland High School)
• Jack Drews, 6-3, 230; TE from Ramona, Calif. (Ramona High School)
• Kanen Eaton, 6-4, 180; WR from Vancouver, Wash. (Columbia River High School)
• AJ Vongphachanh, 6-3, 230; DL from Pasco, Wash. (Chiawana High School)
• Garrett Larson, 6-4, 185; QB from Kaysville, Utah (Davis High School)
• Kaleo Neves, 6-2, 215; LB from Provo, Utah (Timpview High School)
• Oakley Hussey, 6-3, 200; ATH from Idaho Falls, Idaho (Hillcrest High School)
• Hunter Hill, 6-5, 285; OL from Orem, Utah (Orem High School)