Anthony Switzer finally made his Utah State debut. He didn’t disappoint
Switzer has been touted as the next great instinctive Aggie defender, along the lines of linebackers David Woodward and Justin Rice.
It was the second offensive possession of the game for Iowa, inside a rocking Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City on Saturday.
The Hawkeyes held an early 7-0 lead over the visiting Utah State Aggies after wasting little time finding the end zone on their first possession.
A 14-0 lead seemed all but assured, too, as running back Jazuin Patterson was rumbling all alone down the sideline, nary an Aggie defender in sight.
That is until Utah State safety/nickel back/linebacker Anthony Switzer teleported onto the scene with a touchdown-saving solo tackle in the open field.
Patterson gained 18 yards on the play and the Hawkeyes would go on to score their second touchdown of the game later during the drive, but the stop by Switzer was notable.
And just the beginning.
During that same Iowa drive, Switzer made two more tackles and committed a rare defensive penalty — defensive block below the waist — while doing everything he could to slow down the Iowa attack.
He was, in a word, everywhere. Whenever Iowa ran an offensive play it felt as though Switzer was usually in on the stop.
By the end of the game, Switzer finished with the second-most tackles of any USU defender — eight, including five solo — tied with defensive back Simeon Harris and behind only linebacker MJ Tafisi (12 tackles, including three tackles for a loss and a forced fumble).
Switzer was one of 26 players who made their Utah State debut on Saturday, but his first game with the Aggies was a long time coming.
A former Arkansas State standout — he recorded 91 total tackles, including four for loss to go along with four pass breakups, three forced fumbles, a fumble recovery and an interception in 24 games played with the Red Wolves over three seasons — Switzer transferred to Utah State on Dec. 15, 2021 and expectations were sky high from the moment he arrived.
As explained to the Deseret News by now former USU defensive coordinator Ephraim Banda prior to the 2022 season, Switzer was the Aggies’ chosen replacement for standout linebacker Justin Rice.
He was supposed to be the quarterback of the defense, the instinctive defender who maybe wasn’t always where he was supposed to be scheme-wise, but was almost always in position to make the right and needed play.
“Switz was playing lights out,” Banda said. “He is big time.”
Unfortunately for him and last year’s Aggies, Switzer tore his ACL during the Blue vs. White game to close out spring ball, and proceeded to miss the entire 2022 season.
It was a major blow — Banda called it the biggest “damper” of the year — one that the Aggies felt all season long, even as players like Kaleo Neves and Omari Okeke attempted to fill in.
Fast forward to Saturday’s game, and it was clear how much the Aggies missed Switzer last year and just how much better they are with him playing.
The 6-foot, 210 pound Arkansas native was all over the field against the Hawkeyes, making plays in both the passing game and against the run.
Of his eight tackles, six limited the Hawkeyes to five yards or less on the play. The other two, the aforementioned tackle of Patterson and a stop of running back Kaleb Johnson, prevented major gains from being scoring plays for Iowa, or close to it.
“It’s been over over a year and a half since he’s played football and he was ready to get out there,” Utah State head coach Blake Anderson said. “From what I saw, I was pleased.”
Anderson pointed specifically to Switzer’s leadership, though, more than his playmaking, echoing statements made by safeties coach Ethan Morriss during fall camp, that Switzer has helped younger Aggie defenders grow up quickly and understand their roles.
“To be truthful, I didn’t really focus on him (Switzer) a whole lot,” Anderson said, following the loss to Iowa. “I know his name didn’t come up a whole lot in terms of mistakes. He was trying to get people where they’re supposed to be, which is something we need.”
There was plenty to pleased about with Utah State’s defensive performance against Iowa — success against the Hawkeyes’ rushing attack for one, ability to make disruptive plays behind the line of scrimmage being another.
There were also no shortage of criticisms either — Anderson specifically bemoaned the lack of forced turnovers by his team, including two dropped interceptions and two forced fumbles that weren’t recovered, plus too many personal foul penalties.
But Switzer’s debut should be considered nothing but a positive. For him and the Aggies.