The top 10 Utah State football players you need to know for the 2016 season.
1. QB Kent Myers, Jr.
Thrown to the wolves when the quarterbacks started going down like Spinal Tap drummers, Myers still came through with a strong back half of his true freshman season. Last year Chuckie Keeton was back, and Myers was pushed aside – until Keeton got hurt. Myers stepped back in as the starter and picked up where he left off, hitting 61% of his passes for 1,593 yards and 16 touchdowns with three picks, while running for 357 yards and three scores.
While he’s not all that big at 6-0 and 195 pounds, he’s great on the move, has an accurate arm, and is mature enough to be able to handle the workload. When he’s on, he’s all but unstoppable, throwing for 364 yards and four touchdowns in the loss to Air Force, and hitting 70% of his throws in the bowl loss to Akron. Now there’s no question – he’s the quarterback. This is finally his offense to run without any looking over his shoulder.
2. CB Jalen Davis, Jr.
The 5-10, 175-pound all-star came up with 61 tackles as a freshman and followed it up with a 51 stop sophomore campaign, picking off three passes last year and breaking up eight passes. Very, very fast, he’s also a good kick returner, even though he averaged just 17.7 yards per try. He’s never afraid to body up and he’s a form tackler against the run – especially for his size. More than anything else, he’s a baller who knows how to make the big play.
3. OT Austin Albrecht, Sr.
The team’s best blocker, the 6-5, 295-pound All-Mountain West left tackle has an athletic look with the feet to match. Decent as a spot starter as a sophomore, he took over the job last year starting most of the season at left tackle and a few games at right guard, doing a nice job of getting on the move. Able to play just about anywhere up front, he’s still growing into a great pass protector and can get nasty when needed.
4. WR/KR Andrew Rodriguez, Jr.
One of the Mountain West’s most dangerous all-around playmakers, he’s a shifty 5-10, 185-pound return man averaging ten yards per punt return with a score, while also catching 27 passes for 281 yards and a score. Great at finding the opening in the seam, he’s a steady, consistent midrange target who’ll start to get more work as the top returning wide receiver.
5. RB Devante Mays, Sr.
The top back, he’s a big, strong, tight back with 5-11, 220-pound size with great cutback ability. He was only a part-time starter, but he still ran for 966 yards and nine touchdowns averaging six yards per try. The team’s leading rusher, he had a season-high 176 yards against Wyoming and came up with 124 yards on just 12 carries against Akron in the bowl, but he wasn’t consistent. Can he be a workhorse? He was in the JUCO ranks, and when he got the ball 20 times or more, he cranked out the big numbers.
6. C Austin Stephens, Sr.
The JUCO transfer from Iowa Western CC took over the offensive line right away, starting every game over the last two seasons earning Honorable Mention All-Mountain West honors in both seasons. At 6-3, 305 pounds he has decent size and is a dominant force at times for the running game. This should be a terrific line with four starters returning, and he’s the unquestioned leader and the one that things work around – expect him to be one of the league’s top centers with bigger all-star honors.
7. TE Wyatt Houston, Sr.
The team’s leading returning receiver, Houston is a 6-5, 255-pound receiver making 25 grabs for 307 yards and three scores, turning into more of a downfield target. While he can hit, he has the frame and the quickness to be even more dangerous as a go-to guy who can create mismatches. With three years in the system and 51 catches, he knows what he’s doing. Can he double his production from last year? He’ll get the chances.
8. P Aaron Dalton, Soph.
Out of central casting for a top-shelf punter, he’s 6-4, 220 pounds, and can blast. He stepped up as a redshirt freshman and came up with a nice first year averaging 41.3 yards per kick. While that was par for the course in a big year for Mountain West punters, he was outstanding putting 27 inside the 20 with just three touchbacks. He’s going to be a weapon for the next three years.
9. S Devin Centers, Sr.
At 5-9 and 200 pounds he’s built like a strong safety, and he can bring the hits – now he has to get back to his sophomore level. He was okay as a junior – making 46 tackles with three picks – but he was dominant at times in 2014 making 74 stops with three sacks, an interception, 10 broken up passes and three recovered fumbles. Jalen Davis might be the best player in the secondary, but Centers is the one things work around as a good run stopper with the range to attack the ball in the air.
10. RB LaJuan Hunt, Jr.
While the 5-8, 195-pounder out of Florida isn’t big, he’s compact and can move – he’s a perfect fit for the Utah State offense. He did a little bit of everything over the last few years, running for 338 yards and five touchdowns last season – but only averaging 3.19 yards per try – and catching 27 passes for 238 yards and a score. He’s got a lot more explosion than he has shown, but at some point he should break out.