Logan • The 2020 Utah State football team is just about full.
Save for another linebacker and running back, both of which are likely to be graduate transfers, Aggies coach Gary Andersen has his team for next season. Utah State announced 17 new players on Wednesday’s National Signing Day, adding to the seven that had already officially committed in December.
All told, Andersen appears to have filled some positions of need, while also adding to depth to other positions that could be more utilized than they were in 2019. He’s said the Aggies need to be more physical on both sides of the ball next season, a point he reiterated during Wednesday’s press conference.
“We all know you can’t afford to stub your toe very many times during the season and have a chance to play for a championship,” Andersen said. “So our physicality — we have to compete every day — gets that weight.”
Nine of USU’s 24 new recruits are on the defensive side of the ball, highlighting an area the team wants to improve from last year. But at the same time, the Aggies added two tight ends, bringing the roster’s total eight at that position. They also added three safeties, putting that number at 11.
On paper, that many tight ends and safeties may look like overkill. But not with what Andersen is trying to accomplish in the fall. He said he wants his team have the ability to play “regardless of the situation within the last six inches.” That means tackling, running, catching contested balls. Andersen thinks the players at overloaded positions can make those decisions.
“That's why they'll have a chance to play as freshmen,” Andersen said.
At first glance, the the 2020 recruiting class could complement Utah State’s returners in key positions. Andersen seemed to confirm that sentiment.
“We wanted to recruit length, we got that done. We wanted to recruit speed, we got that done. We wanted to recruit football intelligence, I believe we got that done,” Andersen said. “And most importantly, we wanted to recruit kids that truly believe [in] and the love the game of football.”
The class also consists of eight players from the state of Utah, which is one of USU’s primary focuses when it comes to recruiting.
Replenishing the defense. Andersen took care of most of this during the early signing period in December, when five of his seven recruits were on that side of the ball. He snagged four more players on the defensive side, and only two of nine total will serve LDS Church missions. So it appears that the Aggies will have plenty of defensive help after they struggled last season to contain opposing offenses. Marcus Moore highlights those defensive players as a four-year transfer from UCLA.
Justin McGriff. The wide receiver is one of the recruits Andersen and his staff had to work hard to snag. With his size at 6-foot-6 at his position, a player like McGriff is highly sought because of his natural ability to catch balls over defenders. “You'd think that he accidentally got himself on the football bus instead of the basketball bus when he jumps off the bus for a game,” Andersen said. And as a junior college transfer, McGriff would theoretically be in a good position to win playing time in 2020.
The one that got away
Lavon Bunkley-Shelton. The Aggies got the majority of their targets throughout this recruiting cycle. But one player they definitely wanted and didn’t get was Bunkley-Shelton, a four-star wide receiver out of Junipero Serra High School in Gardena, Calif. Utah State was among several local schools to offer him a scholarship, per 247sports.com, but he ultimately went with Arizona State. It’s unclear how hard the Aggies pushed to get Bunkley-Shelton, but the amount of schools vying for his services is an indication that he would have been quite a get for USU.
John Gentry. The three-star running back is just shy of the top 50 recruits at that position, but Andersen was able to snag him despite a long recruiting process. “That was a battle to the very end,” Andersen said of the running back’s recruitment. The Aggies coach added that it wasn’t until Tuesday night that Gentry and his family were fully on board. Nineteen schools offered him scholarships, including the University of Utah.
UTAH STATE’S 2020 RECRUITING CLASS
• Stephen Kotsanlee, 6-2, 205; P from Melbourne, Australia (Box Hills High School)*
• Xavion Steele, 5-10, 185; CB from Hemet, Calif. (Fullerton Community College)*
• Luke Marion, 6-0, 185; S from Tualatin, Ore. (Tualatin High School)*
• Dahlin Mesake, 6-3, 230; DE from Las Vegas, Nev. (Bishop Gorman High School)*
• James Hansen, 6-4, 275; DT from Fontana, Calif. (Riverside Community College)*
• Poukesi Vakauta, 6-0, 275; DT from Euless, Tex. (Trinity High School)*
• Elelyon Noa, 5-9, 200; RB from La Mesa, Calif. (Helix High School)*
• Justice Ena, 6-3, 280; OL from Smithfield, Utah. (Sky View High School)
• Keegan Duncan, 6-3, 220; LB from Declo, Idaho (Declo High School)
• Bowen Fjord, 6-2, 190; S from Boerne, Tex, (Boerne-Champion High School)
• Jacob Garcia, 6-1, 230; LS from Anaheim, Calif. (Servite High School)
• John Gentry, 5-10, 195; RB from Houston, Tex. (North Shore High School)
• Mata Hola, 6-3, 230; LB from Sandy, Utah (Alta High School)
• Broc Lane, 6-5, 225; RB from Gilbert, Ariz. (Perry High School)
• Ryan Marks, 6-0, 200; K/P from Farmington, Utah (Farmington High School)
• Justin McGriff, 6-6, 220; RB from Tampa, Fl. (ASA College of Miami)
• Breaker Mendenhall, 6-3, 180; RB from Crozet, Va. (Western Albemarle High School)
• Marcus Moore, 6-2, 255; DE from Pasadena, Calif. (UCLA)
• Jakob Robinson, 5-10, 160; CB from Orem, Utah (Orem High School)
• Joey Rouly, 6-0, 190; PK from Anaheim, Calif. (Canyon High School)
• Josh Sterzer, 6-4, 225; TE from Salt Lake City, Utah (Taylorsville High School)
• Otto Tia, 6-3, 205; ATH from Layton, Utah (Northridge High School)
• Izzy Vaifo’ou, 6-3, 200; LB from Salt Lake City, Utah (Highland High School)
• Crew Wakley, 6-2, 190; ATH from Sandy, Utah (Jordan High School)
*Signed in December
Aggies hire running backs coach
Andersen announced the hire of Dave Schramm as Utah State’s new running backs coach during Wednesday’s press conference.
Schramm most recently worked as the offensive coordinator at Weber State University in 2018 and 2019. He also coached as an assistant at the University of Utah for seven years, three of them with Andersen. He was the offensive coordinator in 2009 and co-offensive coordinator the next season.
“He’s been doing this at a very high level,” Andersen said of Schramm. “Excited to have him. Toughness, grit, tremendous teacher on the field, tremendous teacher off the field, coaches the game of football because he wants to, not because he has to.”