It isn’t a secret that the 2020 college football season has been a tumultuous one for Utah State.

At 1-4, the Aggies are one of the worst teams in the Mountain West Conference, and with only two games remaining, at best, there isn’t much hope for improvement.

Even after its 41-point explosion against New Mexico on Thanksgiving, USU still has the second-worst scoring offense in the conference and is among the worst in the MWC in many other statistical categories.

Things have not been any better off the gridiron, either.

USU has fired its head coach, dismissed its starting quarterback and watched as four additional starters decided to opt out of the rest of the season and leave the program.

None of that includes COVID-19 troubles, of which the Aggies’ have had their fair share, including the cancelation of a Nov. 19 game scheduled against Wyoming.

The turmoil has, understandably, overshadowed everything else when it comes to Utah State football this season. And a narrative has emerged that the program is in disarray.

Interim head coach Frank Maile rejects that narrative.

“We have too many kids here that care,” Maile said. “The foundation, the culture here is rock solid, and that’s not going to change. A lot of that has to do with the leaders at each position group holding the fort down and rallying the troops. Our coaches have done a great job with those guys. We’ve got great leadership on this team right now and I love the (direction) they’re headed.”

Whether Maile is to be believed or not, one thing is certain: the turmoil of the season has overshadowed the efforts of those players who have remained committed to USU football. And there remain quite a few of them still.

Take senior outside linebacker Nick Heninger.

The reigning MWC Defensive Player of the Week, Heninger came into the season with NFL aspirations and those haven’t subsided at all, despite USU’s struggles.

Heninger has played in every game this season, and is third on the team with 28 total tackles. More than that, the former Utah Ute leads the Aggies with seven tackles for loss, is tied for the team lead with three sacks and has forced a team-best three fumbles.

Heninger has impressed this season, despite starting for the first time in college and changing positions multiple times, due to the team’s varied needs.

“He checks all of the boxes,” Maile said. “When you’re recruiting a kid, not just ability-wise and skillsets, but the character of a kid, his mentality, his work ethic, just doing things the right way, handling his business on and off the field, Nick’s all of those things and more. I mean, if we could have 50 Nicks, then so be it, man. ... I love Nick, man, everything about him.”

Heninger isn’t alone in being overlooked amid Utah State’s struggles.

Here are eight other Aggies who are still in the program and producing week in and week out:


Utah State Aggies safety Shaq Bond (4) defends on a pass that is intended for New Mexico Lobos wide receiver Andrew Erickson (87) during an NCAA football game at Maverik Stadium in Logan on Thursday, Nov. 26, 2020.  | Yukai Peng, Deseret News

Shaq Bond

Arguably the best defender Utah State has, Bond has been his usual great self this season.

A native of Decatur, Illinois, Bond is second on the team, behind only sophomore linebacker AJ Vongphachanh, with 40 total tackles. He has five tackles for loss, three pass breakups and an interception, and was, for lack of a better phrase, a one-man wrecking crew in Utah State’s win over New Mexico.


Savon Scarver

Overshadowed by the offense’s struggles, Scarver has been his usual great kick returning self for USU this year, when afforded the opportunity. He has returned 10 kicks a total of 314 yards, including the 94-yard touchdown he scored against Fresno State.

Scarver’s impact on the offense had been negligible all year, until his 26-yard touchdown reception against New Mexico.


Kevin Meitzenheimer

Playing alongside more touted linebackers for much of his career, first with David Woodward and now with Vongphachanh, Meitzenheimer has nonetheless been a productive and vital player in the middle of the Aggies’ defense. In four games played, Meitzenheimer has totaled 27 tackles, including 3.5 for loss, and half a sack.


New Mexico quarterback Connor Genal (16) scrambles out of the pocket as Utah State defensive lineman Justus Te’i (51) applies pressure during the second half of a college football game Thursday, Nov. 26, 2020, in Logan, Utah. | Eli Lucero, The Herald Journal via Associated Press

Justus Te’i

Heading into the year, Te’i was USU’s most experienced defensive lineman and he has proven their most available as well. Te’i has played in every game and recorded 10 tackles, including 1.5 for loss, to go along with half a sack and a quarterback hurry.


Marcus Moore

A graduate transfer from UCLA, Moore has made an instant impact on the USU defensive front. His 20 total tackles lead all Aggie defensive linemen, and his 2.5 tackles for loss and two sacks are among the best individual marks on the team.

Moore suffered an ankle sprain against New Mexico and there is no timetable for his return as of yet

“We’re not sure,” Maile said. “All of that’s going to depend on his progress. It’s an ankle sprain and so he’s on crutches and (in) a boot right now, so it’s going to be one day at a time.”


Stephen Kotsanlee

Arguably the team’s best overall player this year, Kotsanlee, an Australian, has made a near seamless transition to college football. Kotsanlee is averaging 40.41 yards per punt and has 14 of 34 kicks downed within the 20-yard-line.


Utah State Aggies running back Devonta’e Henry-Cole (7) runs the ball against the New Mexico Lobos defense during an NCAA football game at Maverik Stadium in Logan on Thursday, Nov. 26, 2020.  | Yukai Peng, Deseret News

Devonta’e Henry-Cole

A graduate transfer from Utah, Henry-Cole has played in every game this season and carried the ball 43 times for 183 yards. As the Aggies’ primary back against New Mexico, Henry-Cole had one of his best games of the season, carrying the ball 10 times for a 53 yards.


Connor Coles

A junior from Bozeman, Montana, Coles has been perfect on field goal attempts this season. Against New Mexico, he made both of his attempts, including a career-long of 44 yards and finished the game with 11 points scored. He was named the MWC Special Teams Player of the Week as a result.