Can Gary Andersen's Aggies win a re-made WAC and make it two bowl games in a row?
By: Athlon Sports | 5/4/12, 4:45 PM EDT
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#90 Utah State
HEAD COACH: Gary Andersen, 15-22 (3 years) | OFF. COORDINATOR: Matt Wells | DEF. COORDINATOR: Dave Aranda
Sophomore Chuckie Keeton and senior Adam Kennedy both had their shinning moments at the quarterback position a year ago and battled during spring for the starting job. Keeton began 2011 as the starter until an injury in the eighth game. Kennedy then took over and helped the Aggies get to a bowl game for the first time in 15 years. Keeton will most likely get the nod in the season opener, but Kennedy will be used.
The biggest shoes to fill will be at running back, with Robert Turbin (drafted by Seattle in the fourth round) and Michael Smith no longer around. Enter speedster Kerwynn Williams, who is most known for his ability to break big kickoff and punt returns. Joe Hill and Robert Marshall are pushing for time.
The Aggies have a new offensive coordinator in Matt Wells. The former USU quarterback was in charge of the signal-callers a year ago. Wells wants to use more no-huddle plays and speed up the game.
Matt Austin was granted a sixth year and will headline the stable of wide receivers. Kellen Bartlett will do the same at tight end.
The offensive line returns three starters, including all-league center Tyler Larsen. Three junior college players are expected to add depth.
Gary Andersen is back to just being Utah State’s head coach after he also served as the Aggies’ defensive coordinator in 2011. Dave Aranda is in charge of the defense.
“I feel very comfortable with the coaching staff we have on defense,” Andersen says.
Like the offense, the defense lost a high-profile player in linebacker Bobby Wagner, who also was drafted by Seattle (second round). Fellow three-year starting linebacker Kyle Gallagher is also gone. “Our No. 1 priority was replacing two outstanding linebackers,” Andersen says. “We have some good kids, and hopefully we can come close to sustaining what we had.”
Tavaris McMillian and Jake Doughty have emerged as the replacements as the inside backers. Bojay Filimoeatu and Kyler Fackrell drew praise at outside linebacker.
The defensive line also lost a few mainstays, which concerns the coach. Andersen would like to rotate eight players at the three spots in the trenches. The Aggies emerged from spring with five the coach felt good about.
The secondary is experienced with a handful of seniors, including free safety McKade Brady.
While Williams will handle some of the return duties, others will be called on to allow him to focus on being the main running back. In the kicking department, spring was rough. Josh Thompson and Nick Diaz are sharing duties at placekicker, while Tyler Bennett is the punter. Consistency is the goal this fall.
As Andersen prepares for his fourth season at the USU helm, he is pleased with the work ethic of his team. The goal is a WAC title, which is not out of the question with the departure of Nevada, Hawaii and Fresno State to the Mountain West.
While two stud running backs are gone, this team still should be able to run the ball. Plus, with two experienced quarterbacks, the offense should be able to score points and keep fans excited.
The Aggies had some problems early last season closing out games in heartbreaking losses at Auburn and BYU and a home defeat against Colorado State. However, USU reeled off five straight wins to make the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. Winning eight games this year should not be a stretch.