LOGAN — Utah State head coach Gary Andersen didn’t mince words about it. In his mind, there is no more important a responsibility for a college football coach than to recruit well.

“The most important thing we do is recruit,” he said, matter-of-factly. “It’s not just great athletes either. It’s recruiting people that fit our culture, our system, our valley, our university and our great athletes. That is the most important part of our job.”

Especially if you have designs on a championship, whether it be a conference title or more.

“You have to recruit if you’re going to get in a position to win a championship,” Andersen said.

So while the Aggies are currently in the midst of bowl preparations, with the Frisco Bowl looming on Friday Dec. 20, recruiting has taken center stage with the early signing period set to begin Wednesday, Dec. 18.

Beginning on Wednesday, recruits will be able to sign letters of intent, becoming the first commits of the 2020 recruiting class in the process.

How are the Aggies doing on the recruiting front? Good, according to Andersen.

“I feel very good,” he said. “We’re very selective, like we’ve talked about.”

With only 13 departing seniors, 14 if you include quarterback Jordan Love, who recently announced that he will forgo his senior season and enter the 2020 NFL draft, the Aggies have had the benefit of being somewhat choosy on the recruiting trail. That means Utah State has been recruiting almost exclusively for need rather than want, in hopes of finding players who can become immediate contributors.

“Sometimes you have a bigger class, then there are times when you need kids for the seniors for next year’s class. You need certain kids to be able to help us get in a position to be able to compete at a high level. Many of these kids that we’re recruiting this year are needs. And yes, it’s going well,” Andersen said. 

That isn’t to say it has been easy.

“There are recruiting battles, so we’re in fights all over the place,” Andersen said. “There are a lot of fights out there. It’s back and forth. You get a kid, and you think you have him, and then he’s got a bunch of offers from other places and you’ve got to keep battling.”

As of Friday, Dec. 13, Utah State had eight hard verbal commitments to the program, in addition to an incoming transfer, per 247Sports

Included among the eight are defensive lineman Poukesi Vakauta (Euless, Texas), safety Luke Marion (Tualatin, Oregon), edge rusher Dahlin Mesake (Las Vegas, Nevada), quarterback Yaro Duvalko (Vancouver, Washington), wide receiver Otto Tia (Layton, Utah), running backs Elelyon Noa (La Mesa, California) and Isaiah Afatasi (Salt Lake City, Utah) and punter Stephen Kotsanlee (Melbourne, Australia).

Other recruits who’ve visited Logan recently include junior college transfers, such as wide receiver Trae Shropshire (Zachary, Louisiana) and cornerbacks Justin Gardner (Snellville, Georgia) and Xavion Steele (Orange, California).

Getting players in on visits is key for the Aggies.

“It’s the same story at Utah State,” Andersen said. “If you get a young man here on campus, you’ve got a great opportunity for him and his family to say this is a tremendous place when they walk out of here. Now, do they all say yes? No, they don’t all say yes, but they walk out of here knowing that this is a tremendous community. It’s a tremendous school. We run this program like it’s a Power Five program. We do not have that title, but the way our kids are treated, they walk out of here with the Power Five feel. That’s a big part of where we’re at, and that’s just not football-wise. That’s from everybody — academics, training and weight room.”

In addition to targeting high school and junior college recruits, Utah State will likely be active in the transfer portal again. The Aggies struck gold in the portal last year, pulling in the likes of wide receiver Siaosi Mariner, tight end Caleb Repp and defensive end Nick Heninger from Utah, as well as running back Riley Burt from BYU and cornerback Terin Adams from Arizona State. 

“Last year, we looked and we saw Caleb and Siaosi immediately at the very beginning,” said Andersen. “That was a chance to have what we thought were game-changers. We saw Nick in the same scenario. He walked in and we thought he was a game-changer. And, Riley was the same way. It has been awesome for those kids.”

Recruiting the portal is a little different than recruiting high school athletes, Andersen conceded, though everything ultimately comes down to fit.

“The key thing is to identify and understand that the kids aren’t perfect, coaches aren’t perfect, fits aren’t perfect,” he said. “You can’t just gain an opinion about a young man in the portal because he’s leaving a program. You’ve got to find out why. You have to find out the situations and scenarios of exactly what took place to put him in a position to be able to get into the portal. Maybe he was over his head, maybe he was in a position battle that he couldn’t win. You can go on and on with those scenarios. … Our coaches do a good job with that. But, the fit is the fit.”

And starting on Wednesday, those kids who fit best at Utah State will begin their Aggie careers with a signature on the dotted line.

Utah State national and Mountain West Conference recruiting rankings since 2010, per 247Sports

Coach: Gary Andersen 

2010 — 105th; 10th 

2011 — 108th; 9th 

Coach: Matt Wells

2012 — 111th; 9th

2013 — 109th, 10th

2014 — 111th; 9th

2015 — 96th; 5th 

2016 — 92nd; 8th 

2017 — 104th; 9th 

2018 — 109th; 9th 

Coach: Gary Andersen

2019 — 90th; 4th

2020 — 126th; 7th (as of Dec. 13)