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It’s expected to be a quiet early signing period for USU. That won’t stop Aggies’ new coach from dreaming big

Blake Anderson speaks at a news conference Monday, Dec. 14, 2020, where he was introduced as the new head football coach at Utah State University in Logan, Utah.
Eli Lucero, The Herald Journal/Associated Press

There aren’t expected to be many players officially joining the 2021 Utah State football recruiting class on Wednesday when the early signing period opens for college football.

There’s a variety of reasons for that, among them a recruiting world dealing COVID-19 issues that has prevented on-campus or in-campus visits, per NCAA rules. The Aggies, too, recently completed a rough 1-6 season, and now there is a new head coach in charge.

For that matter, Utah State inked only seven prospects on the opening day of the early signing period last year.

That doesn’t concern Blake Anderson, who was introduced as Gary Andersen’s successor as USU’s head coach on Monday.

Anderson — who is still assembling his coaching staff, in addition to getting a quick introduction to recruiting at USU — made sure to emphasize Utah State would stay true to its foundational recruiting base, while also seeking ways to find talent in other areas during his introductory press conference Monday.

“We are kind of locked in to where we are as far as the foundation of the recruiting area. Part of putting together a staff will be about strategically attacking those areas with guys who have West Coast ties, local ties, cultural ties as well, Polynesian and Mormon ties,” Anderson said. “We are going to get into Texas some, where I am from and where (former USU quarterback) Chuckie (Keeton) is from, obviously one of your best players is from Houston.”

Keeton, of note, is joining Anderson’s staff, after spending the past two years as an offensive graduate assistant at Texas Tech under former USU coach Matt Wells. Anderson — an offensive mind who spent the past seven years as Arkansas State’s head coach, compiling a 51-37 record while leading the Red Wolves to two Sun Belt Conference championships — said the biggest change will be how they approach recruiting, and in that sense, Anderson set himself a challenge.

“We are not just going to pick up this place and move it, but I think strategically what we will do is the approach that we take, my active approach to recruiting, I need to be the best recruiter out of any head coach in the MW, and the best recruiter out of any head coach in the country,” he said.

Utah State’s 2021 recruiting class is currently ranked 135th nationally by 247 Sports, with four commits. Each of them is an in-state, three-star prospect: Bingham defensive end Tupou Maile, Sky View cornerback Isaac Larsen, Pine View defensive end Rick Mua’e and Box Elder athlete Parker Buchanan.

Larsen, who had 42 tackles and four interceptions as a senior while earning 4A first-team All-State honors, told 247 Sports he’ll sign Wednesday. Buchanan, who committed to Utah State in April, told the Herald Journal he’s not sure when he’ll sign, but he is “100% committed to the Aggies.”

Anderson also hinted at mining a recruiting avenue that’s brought him success in the past.

“I think one place that hasn’t been utilized here much recently are the Kansas junior colleges and that is somewhere we’ve had tremendous success,” Anderson said. “Some of the best players we’ve had the last 10 years, offensive player of the year, defensive player of the year, first all-team all-conference players at many positions and NFL players, that is an area where we’ve found value that you just don’t see right now. That might be the one change, but the way we approach recruiting is probably the biggest change.”

Utah State’s projected 2021 recruiting class

Utah State’s commits as of Tuesday, according to 247 Sports

Parker Buchanan — 6-6, 215, ATH — Brigham City (Box Elder High)

Isaac Larsen — 5-11, 160, CB — Smithfield (Sky View High)

Rick Mua’e — 6-3, 250, DE — St. George (Pine View High)

Tupou Maile 6-3, 230, DE — South Jordan (Bingham High)