Less than a week before spring practices start, the Utah State Aggies have reportedly lost one of their best and most experienced defenders.

Per ESPN’s Pete Thamel, senior linebacker AJ Vongphachanh has entered the transfer portal, becoming the latest in a long line of Aggie defenders to leave USU this offseason.

Utah State’s leading tackler in 2022 — he finished the season with 101 tackles — Vongphachanh was the team’s most experienced player, having played more than 2,500 snaps in his career and having started 33 of 37 games played.

A native of Pasco, Washington, Vongphachanh became a regular contributor during the abbreviated 2020 season, and in his USU career, he racked up 222 total tackles.

Vongphachanh was expected to start alongside linebacker MJ Tafisi in 2023 and help an inexperienced Utah State defense find its way.

Before Vongphachanh, Utah State lost key defensive linemen Daniel Grzesiak, Byron Vaughns, Patrick Joyner, Phillip Paea and Tavian Coleman this offseason.

Those departing transfers weren’t entirely unexpected, but left the Aggies in need of replacements.

“We helped a handful of guys that were not going to play a lot and wanted to get on rosters where they could play more. We helped those guys transition, portal to those locations,” Utah State head coach Blake Anderson said on National Signing Day. “I think that number (of transfer portal defections) may have been a bit bigger (because of that).

“We didn’t really get exploded by the portal. We had some key players leave, but we anticipated them leaving and have replaced all but a couple of them.”

Vongphachanh may or may not fall in the same category as a graduate transfer, but the Aggies will have to work hard to replace him.

The most likely candidate is Washington State transfer Gavin Barthiel. A former 3-star recruit out of Lakeland, Florida, Barthiel signed with the Aggies during the early signing period.

Coming out of Lake Gibson High in 2021, Barthiel had offers from Georgia Tech, Boston College, Coastal Carolina and Appalachian State.

The transfer portal is currently closed for football players except for graduate transfers. NCAA rules state that graduate transfer can enter the portal at any time, but non-graduate transfers must wait for the transfer portal window to open again on May 1.