Utah State football preview for 2016, including keys to success for the Aggies, best players and season prediction.
What You Need To Know About Utah State’s Offense
With 10 starters returning from an attack that was good-but-not-great, the consistency should be better after finishing a pedestrian 93rd in the nation in total offense. The identity and pop weren’t really there, but there were moments when it all kicked in and the offense showed potential. Now with Kent Myers firmly entrenched at quarterback, there’s an identity to the attack. Four starters are back up front, and the running game should be fantastic with a slew of quick, veteran backs who fit the mold. The key will be to simply start scoring more and not rely so much on the defense – the Aggies scored 17 points or fewer five times.
Key To The Utah State Offense
Can there be some consistency to the passing game? Chuckie Keeton gave it a run for the first part of the season and then the last three games, and Kent Myers took over in the middle, but now Keeton is gone and it’s Myers who gets to be the steady hand – or arm – game in and game out. Injuries have been a problem for the Aggies over the last few years, but if Myers can stay in one piece, this should be an ultra-efficient passing game after way too many issues last year – the offense never seemed to come up with the same game twice in a row. That should change.
What You Need To Know About Utah State’s Defense
The defense might have faltered and sputtered against Air Force and BYU, but for the most part it was solid – great against the run and 17th in the nation overall. Now comes the rebuilding job with six starters gone from the front seven, including superstar linebacker Nick Vigil. The secondary returns a few key starters, but the depth has to be developed right away in all areas and it’s going to take a bit to come up with another trio of attacking linebackers.
Key To The Utah State Defense
Can the pass rush gear it up with so many new starters? The Aggies came up with 27 sacks last season, but it was feast-or-famine with 14 of them coming in three games. In seven games there were a total of five sacks – a sharp drop overall after coming up with 49 sacks in 2014, 34 in 2013 and 42 in 2012. Defensive end Ricky Ali’ifua is the best returning pass rusher generating just three of the sacks, but Job One of co-defensive coordinators Frank Malle and Kendrick Shaver will be to find some way to get into the backfield.
Utah State Football Will Be Far Better If …
The offense takes advantage of every good drive. The Aggies played five games decided by seven points or fewer, losing three of them. In those defeats, they were a combined 4-of-8 inside the red zone. Overall on the year they struggled converting just 31-of-43 times – 72% – but went 4-0 when they didn’t whiff going 15-of-15 against Southern Utah, Colorado State, Fresno State and Wyoming. By comparison, they scored 77% of the time inside the 20 in 2014, 85% of the time in 2013, and 82% of the time in 2012. In 2011, the Aggies played ten games decided by seven points or fewer, converting 87% of their red zone chances.
Best Offensive Player
QB Kent Myers – Myers isn’t all that big, but he has a nice, accurate arm and he can move. Now he has the offense to himself after being the second option last year and the emergency fourth man in the mix two seasons ago. There were a few rocky moments against some of the Mountain West’s stronger defenses, but for the most part he’s been an accurate passer who takes care of the ball, completing 61% of his throws for 1,593 yards and 16 touchdowns with just three picks last season. When he wants to run, he’s deadly, taking off for 191 yards and a score against Colorado State and running for 357 yards on the year.
Best Defensive Player
CB Jalen Davis – A starter from the moment he got to campus, the 5-10, 175-pound two-year starter has been one of the main parts of the secondary for all 26 games for his career. With five picks and 15 broken up passes, he’s solid against the pass as a lockdown corner, but he’s also known for his tackling ability, especially in the open field making 112 stops over his first two seasons. With so many key starters gone off the defense, Davis has to standout even more.
Key Player To A Successful Season
LB Brock Carmen – With Nick Vigil and his 144 stops taking off early, the top five tacklers from last year are gone. Seven of the top eight are done, and ten of the top 11 are finished. The linebacking corps was gutted, and that includes most of the key backups, meaning junior Alex Huerta has to play a big role on the outside and Carmen has to try to fill in and be the new big hitter on the inside. Someone has to rise up and be the one who becomes the key new run stopper, and the 6-3, 230-pound Carmen will get the first look after making 12 tackles last year as a key backup.
The Season Will Be A Success If …
It’s a winning season with another bowl appearance. There are too many losses on the defensive side to realistically thing Mountain West title, especially with trips to Boise State, Nevada and Colorado State to deal with. Throw in the road games at USC and BYU, and a nasty home game against San Diego State, and getting on the plus side in wins with a sixth straight bowl appearance would be impressive.
Sept. 24 vs. Air Force – The Aggies beat the Falcons twice in a row before losing in a key game last season. This time around, it’s their Mountain West opener before going on the road to deal with Boise State and Colorado State. Lose to Air Force, and it might be an 0-3 conference start going into the bye week.
Fun Stats From 2015
– Utah State First Quarter Scoring: 67. Utah State Second Quarter Scoring: 142
– Kickoff Return Average: Utah State 25.6 yards – Opponents 21.9 yards
– Fourth Down Conversions: Utah State 11-of-22 (50%) – Opponents 12-of-25 (48%)
Prediction For 2016
What’s going to happen to Utah State football this season? Check out what the final record is going to be …