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How the Utah State Aggies look, position group by position group, heading into fall camp

Utah State cornerback DJ Williams celebrates after being named the Outstanding Defensive Player of the New Mexico Bowl NCAA college football game in Albuquerque, N.M., Saturday, Dec. 15, 2018. Utah State beat North Texas 52-13. (AP Photo/Andres Leighton)
Utah State cornerback DJ Williams celebrates after being named the Outstanding Defensive Player of the New Mexico Bowl NCAA college football game in Albuquerque, N.M., Saturday, Dec. 15, 2018. Utah State beat North Texas 52-13. (AP Photo/Andres Leighton)
AP

LOGAN — The Utah State Aggies are not without talent as they head into the 2019 football season.

The team brings back nine starters, two on offense and seven on defense, as part of 31 letterwinners from 2018.

There are two returning All-Americans, and eight players who earned some sort of Mountain West Conference honor a season ago, whether it be first team, second team or honorable mention.

Players like quarterback Jordan Love and running back Gerold Bright return from an offense that was arguably one of the best in the nation a season ago, and on defense there is a household name in linebacker David Woodward.

It all promises to make for an exciting and competitive fall camp, as newcomers and holdovers battle for starting spots.

“This will be an extremely competitive camp,” Aggies head coach Gary Andersen said. “There are a lot of kids that want the starter tag next to their name. That’ll be fun to watch.”

Here is how the Aggies look, position group by position group, heading into camp.

Quarterback

  • Jordan Love — 6-4, 225, Jr.
  • Henry Colombi — 6-2, 205, So.
  • Andrew Peasley — 6-2, 200, Fr. (RS)

It starts and ends with Love. The junior is one of the more highly regarded signal callers in the nation, as evidenced by the many preseason honors he’s garnered, including first-team All-Mountain-West honors (Athlon Sports and Phil Steele’s Magazine), spots of the watch list for the Walter Camp Player of the Year award, Maxwell award and Davey O’Brien award, not to mention a Mountain West Preseason Player of the Year designation. Love also is on the College Football Performance Awards (CFPA) Performer of the Year watchlist.

“He is a tremendous young man,” Andersen said. “A great captain and a great leader. I’ve never seen him really have a bad day. He is consistent. He is consistent when he is in and out of the building, every day of the week.

“He wants to learn. His drive to really get better is really noticeable. He works every day to be great.”

Running back

  • Gerold Bright — 5-10, 190, Sr.
  • Enoch Nawahine — 6-1, 195, Fr.

Bright returns after having rushed for 888 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2018, and assumes pole position at running back. He was named to Athlon Sports’ first-team All Mountain West (preseason) and Phil Steele’s second-team.

“Gerold is the starter, without a doubt,” said Andersen. “He put on weight, that was a goal of his. He is such a threat receiving also, let's not forget he was a receiver.

“He’s worked on his deficiencies, as far as blocking. He’s worked very hard on developing the technique and fundamentals.”

Behind Bright is Nawahine, a freshman out of Kahuku, Hawaii.

“Enoch has done a good job. He was a mid-year transfer, high school kid. Was drinking out of a firehouse at the beginning but he’d handled spring ball really well.

“One scrimmage we handed the ball off to him 10 times in a row. He could hardly walk after, but didn’t bat an eye. He’s bigger, faster and stronger. He don’t want to hear the word redshirt.”

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends

X

  • Jordan Nathan — 5-8, 180, Jr.
  • Deven Thompkins — 5-7, 160, So.

H-WR

  • Taylor Compton — 5-8, 175, Jr.
  • Deven Thompkins — 5-7, 160, So.

Z-WR

  • Savon Scarver — 5-11, 180, Jr.
  • Derek Wright — 6-1, 185, Jr.

Y-TE

  • Carson Terrell — 6-5, 245, Jr.
  • Travis Boman — 6-4, 245, Jr.

The Aggies lost their top five pass-catching targets from 2018. Nathan was named a preseason fourth-team All-Mountain West receiver by Phil Steele.

“The wide receiver position is key for this football team,” said Andersen, “and key for Jordan and this offense to operate at a high level. When you lose 70 percent of your offensive production at a position, you need people to step up and go. We’ve added numbers and new faces there and it will be extremely competitive. There are great players in this program who’ve had great offseasons, but we have to see.”

Offensive line

LT

  • Alfred Edwards — 6-7, 310, So., or
  • Andy Koch — 6-6, 290, Fr. (RS)

LG

  • Ty Shaw — 6-4, 300, Jr.
  • Wyatt Bowles — 6-4, 300, Fr. (RS)

C

  • Demytrick Ali’fua — 6-3, 305, Jr., or
  • Heneli Avendano — 6-3, 290, Fr. (RS)

RG

  • Karter Shaw — 6-4, 305, Fr. (RS), or
  • Kyler Hack — 6-4, 300, So

RT

  • Andy Koch — 6-6, 290, Fr. (RS), or
  • Jacob South — 6-5, 295, Fr. (RS)

After losing all but one starter (Edwards) from a season ago, the Aggies are building from the ground up. Edwards is preseason second-team (Athlon) and fourth-team (Phil Steele) All-Mountain West.

“We walked in here in January and evaluated this group closely,” said Andersen. “We felt there were some young men that could replace those four starters and they’ve worked hard. They’ve battled, on the field and off the field, in the classroom. We are going to see how far we’ve come, especially with our defensive line back. I expect our defensive line to be very good and our offensive line to be challenged and we will see where they sit.”

Defense line

DE

  • Justus Te’i — 6-3, 240, Jr.
  • Dalton Baker — 6-5, 245, Sr.

DT

  • Devon Anderson — 6-1, 295, Sr.
  • Jacoby Wildman — 6-2, 250, Gr.

DT

  • Fua Leilua — 6-3, 295, Sr.
  • Christopher ‘Unga — 6-0, 295, Sr.

DE

  • Tipa Galeai — 6-5, 235, Sr.
  • Elijah Shelton — 6-1, 230, Fr. (RS)

Four starters return long the defensive line, including captain Tipa Galeai. He, Leilua and ‘Unga all earned All-Mountain West preseason honors, while Galeai is on the watchlist for the Bednarik.

“It’ll be great to get the D-lineman back, we have bodies there now, where in spring ball so many kids were recovering from nagging injuries or surgery,” said Andersen. “I expect that group to be a powerful part of this football team.

“We want to have eight guys on the defensive line that play a lot. That is our goal. We want to be two deep, especially at the defensive end spot. Justus and Tipa are the starters right now. Justus has earned that spot, he earned it through spring and summer. The other two guys, to see who takes those other two spots, it’ll be a battle. The key is to find the best eight guys. We would love to rotate them 60-40 or 50-50. We want to rotate through series and keep those kids fresh.”

Linebacker

ILB

  • David Woodward — 6-2, 235, Jr.
  • Maika Magalei — 6-1, 230, So.

ILB

  • Kevin Meitzenheimer — 6-0, 230, Jr.
  • Eric Munoz — 6-0, 230, Jr.

David Woodward returns as the superstar linebacker of the Aggies, having been named a third-team All American by The Associated Press following the 2018 season. He is on more preseason watchlists than any other Utah State player, including the Bednarik, Bronko Nagurski and Lott IMPACT, among others.

“The thing that David has are incredible instincts, things you don’t coach,” said Andersen. “He can be physical as needed, but also very squirmy and hard to find. Bobby (Wagner) was like that. The two young men at Utah last year, Chase (Hansen) and Cody (Barton), were like that. They had tremendous speed on the field, strength as needed and very physical and aggressive tacklers. You don’t see guys get a lot of extra yards and that is how David plays.

“Who is going to be next to him? Is it going to be Kevin, Noah, is Cash (Gilliam) going to come down and play? Who is going to be that guy, or the couple of guys next to Woody? That’s what we are trying to figure out.”

Secondary

NKL

  • DJ Williams — 5-9, 180, Sr.
  • Andre Grayson — 5-8, 175, So.

CB

  • Zahodri Jackson — 5-10, 185, So.
  • Dominic Tatum — 6-2, 180, Fr.

S

  • Shaq Bond — 5-10, 195, Jr.
  • Braxton Gunther — 5-10, 185, Jr.

S

  • Troy Lefeged — 5-11, 190, Jr.
  • Cash Gilliam — 5-11, 200, Jr.

CB

  • Cameron Haney — 5-10, 185, Sr.
  • Jarrod Green — 5-11, 180, So.

The Aggies secondary has a pair of returning starters in DJ Williams and Shaq Bond. Williams was the standout, having recorded 42 tackles, three tackles for loss and a team-high four interceptions a season ago. As a result, he is the only Aggie defensive back to be given preseason honors, as a Jim Thorpe Award watchlist nominee.

“As a whole, our defensive back field, there is a lot of competition there,” said Andersen. “At safety, nickel and corner. There will be some moving of the chess pieces, but those kids are all ready to compete. I went out to lunch today with (Andre) Grayson and he is extremely excited. He shared with me that that back end is ready to be involved.”

SPECIAL TEAMS

P

  • Aaron Dalton — 6-4, 215, Sr.
  • Christopher Bartolic — 6-0, 195, Jr.

PK/K

  • Dominik Eberle — 6-2, 190, Sr.
  • Connor Coles — 6-0, 190, So.

LS

  • Brandon Pada — 5-10, 210, Jr.
  • Tipa Galeai — 6-5, 235, Sr.

HLD

  • Aaron Dalton — 6-4, 215, Sr.
  • Chase Nelson — 5-10, 200, Jr.

PR

  • Jordan Nathan — 5-8, 180, Jr.
  • Deven Thompkins — 5-7, 160, So.

KOR

  • Savon Scarver — 5-11, 180, Jr.
  • Gerold Bright — 5-10, 190, Sr.
  • Deven Thompkins — 5-7, 160, So.
  • Cameron Haney — 5-10, 185, Sr.

Dominik Eberle and Savon Scarver headline what is an altogether strong special teams unit, though Jordan Nathan and Brandon Pada deserve mention too.

Eberle is on the Lou Groza and Wuerffel watchlists, after finishing as a Lou Groza semifinalist in 2018. He’s also an Allstate AFCA Good Works Team nominee. Scarver, meanwhile, has multiple first and second-team All-America nominations, in addition to All-Mountain West.

“I feel great about the specialists,” said Andersen. “They’ll win us games.”