Blake Anderson came into the job as Utah State University’s football coach in December 2020 with almost no experience recruiting players from Utah. That’s not surprising considering he coached seven years at Arkansas State before moving to Cache Valley.
But now Anderson has a couple of signing periods under his belt with the Aggies, who won their first Mountain West Conference title last season and capped it off with a win at the L.A. Bowl. And he’s learned a great deal about what high school football in Utah has to offer, evidenced by the slew of local talent USU picked up in its 2022 class.
“I’ve been really pleasantly surprised at the all-season programs, the amount of effort and energy put into teaching the guys at this level, the time that the players in the state spend in the offseason and summer with personal trainers and 7-on-7 teams and all that,” Anderson said Wednesday. “It’s really good ball.”
Of particular surprise to Anderson is the number of talented players the state produces on the offensive and defensive lines. Utah has a reputation for developing NFL-caliber linemen. And the Aggies lacked in the trenches last year, especially on the offensive side, said Anderson, who signed a contract extension through 2027 late last year.
Luckily for him, plenty of those types of players are available right in his own backyard.
“If you look at this class, I felt like we did a really, really good job of closing the gap offensive line-wise,” Anderson said. “We were way behind in numbers and we were able to pick up, I think, some really solid players that have great futures on the O-line.”
Anderson recalled recruiting for those positions while at Arkansas State and having a difficult time doing so, having to instead travel elsewhere to find the types of big bodies needed on the line.
Anderson credited tight ends coach D.J. Tialavea for leading the charge on in-state recruits.
“He is a point person on every in-state player, played here, is from Salt Lake, has a passion for it and did a phenomenal job,” Anderson said. “[He] gets a tremendous amount of credit for his ability to keep us in the fight in the state all across the players here in the state whether we’re battling BYU or Utah or guys coming in from out of state.”
Anderson brought in five offensive linemen for the class of 2022, all of whom are native Utahns and fresh out of high school.
UTAH STATE FOOTBALL 2022 SIGNING CLASS
• Brian Cobbs, 6-2, 210, WR; from Alexandria, Virginia (Hayfield High School/Maryland)
• Max Alford, 6-1, 215, LB; from Park City, Utah (Park City High School)
• Saco Alofipo, 5-10, 175, S; from Henderson, Nevada (Liberty High School)
• James Aloisio, 6-4, 280, OL; from Provo, Utah (Timpview High School)
• Teague Andersen, 6-5, 285, OL; from Lehi, Utah (Lehi High School)
• Kyle Baker, 6-4, 2-5, TE; from Hyde Park, Utah (Green Canyon High School)
• Robert Briggs, 5-7, 170, RB; from Bellville, Texas (Bellville High School)
• Tavian Coleman, 6-2, 285, DT; from Humble, Texas (Trinity Valley Community College)
• Bishop Davenport, 6-1, 190, QB; from Spring, Texas (Spring High School)
• Jordan Drew, 6-0, 170, CB; from Tulsa, Oklahoma (Booker T. Washington High School)
• Paul Fitzgerald, 6-3, 235, DE; from Idaho Falls, Idaho (Thunder Ridge High School)
• Lofa Fonoti-Maikui, 6-3, 185, LB; from Layton, Utah (Northridge High School)
• Daniel Grzesiak, 6-1, 240, DE; from Los Angeles, California (Nevada)
• Gurvan Hall, Jr., 6-0, 190, S; from West Palm Beach, Florida (Miami)
• Kauasi Hansen, 6-5, 285, OL; from Herriman, Utah (Herriman High School)
• Malachi Keels, 6-2, 190, WR; from Escondido, California (Orange Glen High School)
• Weylin Lapuaho, 6-4, 295, OL; from South Jordan, Utah (Bingham High School)
• Ryker Lotulelei, 6-2, 230, LB; from Salt Lake City, Utah (West High School)
• Enoka Migao, 6-5, 230, DE; from Temecula, California (Chaparral High School)
• Sione Tavo Motu’Apuaka, 6-5, 280, OL; from Honolulu, Hawaii (Radford High School)
• Austin Okerwa, 6-2, 180, WR; from Salt Lake City, Utah (Skyline High School)
• Bronson Olevao, 6-1, 185, DB; from Salt Lake City, Utah (Highland High School)
• Bryce Radford, 6-6, 285, OL; from Hyde Park, Utah (Green Canyon High School)
• Jett Solomon, 6-0, 190, S; from Las Vegas, Nevada (Desert Pines High School)
• Anthony Switzer, 6-0, 205, LB; from Marion, Arkansas (Arkansas High School)
• MJ Tafisi, 6-0, 230, LB; from West Jordan, Utah (Washington)
• Adam Tomczyk, 6-4, 260, DT; from Los Alamitos, California (Los Alamitos High School)
• Chase Tuatagaloa, 6-4, 200, QB; from Orem, Utah (Orem High School)
• Tom Turpin, 6-4, 240, DE; from Washington Terrace, Utah (Bonneville High School)
• Terrell Vaughn, 5-10, 180, WR; from Oxnard, California (Ventura JC)
• Josh Williams, 6-2, 205, LB; from Mesquite, Texas (Mesquite High School)
• Lee Williams, 6-5, 225, QB; from Canyon Lake, Texas (Wyoming)
• Xavier Williams, 6-1, 190, WR; from Hollywood, Florida (Alabama)