Utah State Aggies poised to nearly double size of 2020 recruiting class come February signing day
The Aggies had three early enrollees and five additional players sign letters of intent in December. USU will likely add at least eight additional recruits to that total on Feb. 5
LOGAN — Utah State head coach Gary Andersen didn’t say much at the close of the early signing period for recruiting back in December.
His team was in the midst of preparations for the Frisco Bowl — they were in Texas during the entire signing period — so Andersen’s focus and that of Aggie nation was largely on the final game of a bittersweet 2019 season.
As such, the coach kept his comments brief when it came to the USU’s 2020 recruiting class, with Andersen saying things like “it was a good day,” “everybody that we expected to sign signed” and “this class has always been about quality not quantity.”
Utah State signed eight recruits that day, three of whom — running back Elelyon Noa (La Mesa, California), defensive back Xavion Steele (Fullerton, California) and punter Stephen Kotsanlee (Melbourne, Australia) — enrolled early.
The other five, including defensive linemen Poukesi Vakauta (Euless, Texas), James Hansen (Riverside, California), linebacker Dahlin Mesake (Las Vegas), safety Luke Marion (Tualatin, Oregon) and running back Isaiah Afatasi (Salt Lake City) made for a solid, if small class.
In what appeared to be a throwaway line then, Andersen added one final tidbit about the Aggies’ recruiting efforts, namely that they weren’t done.
“We will continue to work to finish this class through the February signing day,” he said.
Utah State has done just that.
Despite some upheaval in the coaching staff, including the arrival of new offensive coordinator Bodie Reeder, USU is primed to add at least nine additional recruits to the 2020 class when signing day kicks off on the Feb. 5, according to 247Sports.
The Aggies currently have hard verbal commitments from wide receivers Justin McGriff (North Miami Beach, Florida) and Otto Tia (Layton, Utah), defensive backs Jakob Robinson (Orem, Utah) and Bowen Fjord (Boerne, Texas) offensive lineman Justice Ena (Smithfield, Utah), tight end Broc Lane (Gilbert, Arizona), long snapper Jacob Garcia (Anaheim, California) and kicker Joey Rouly (Anaheim, California).
They also got a commitment from punter/kicker Ryan Marks (Farmington, Utah), who will serve a two-year mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints before joining the Aggies.
Finally, USU is expected to add JUCO transfer Cooper Jones (Elko, Nevada), a running back/punt returner who last played at Butte Community College, in Oroville, California, where he returned 21 punts for 239 yards at an average of 11.4 yards per return.
McGriff is the headliner of the offense-heavy group, as a three-star JUCO prospect who was originally committed to the University of Nebraska. He is the third-highest rated commit in Utah State history, per 247Sports composite ratings. Garcia is another standout, and is rated the No. 1 long snapper in the country by 247Sports.
A name to keep on eye on is quarterback Yaro Duvalko (Vancouver, Washington). A longtime USU commit, Duvalko decomitted on Jan. 27, in the wake of Mike Sanford Jr. leaving Utah State to take the offensive coordinator job at Minnesota. Duvalko recently visited UNLV, but still holds an offer from Utah State.
“I still hold an offer from Utah State,” Duvalko told UStateAggies’ Brandon Huffman. “Coach (Bodie) Reeder had an in-home visit with me last week. Their plan for me is to greyshirt. Coach (Mike) Sanford’s new position at Minnesota is affecting my decision greatly. I had a great relationship with him and he made it a very comfortable spot to commit to Utah State at the time. I do think very highly of Coach Reeder as well.”
While the loss of Duvalko would be felt, Andersen feels good about his quarterback room, which includes Henry Colombi, Andrew Peasley, Cooper Legas and Josh Calvin.
“Those guys are going to compete against each other,” Andersen said. “Cooper (Legas) and Josh (Calvin) aren’t going to sit there and say they don’t want to compete. They’re all going to battle and compete in those settings.”
Andersen noted that the athleticism of Legas and Peasley in particular will likely be utilized next season, regardless of whether they get the starting nod.
Colombi currently is ahead of the pack when it comes to the first string quarterback position, and there will be a single starting quarterback.
“Yes, there will be a starting quarterback, there’s no doubt,” Andersen said. “Right now Henry is there because he has the upper hand. He’s had the reps.”
There remains the possibility that Utah State could add talent via the transfer portal, with Utah running back Devonta’e Henry-Cole a rumored possibility. If he winds up with the Aggies — late Friday night he appeared to tweet in favor of BYU — he’d follow in the footsteps of former teammates Siaosi Mariner, Caleb Repp and Nick Heninger.
On recruiting graduate transfers and/or those who enter the transfer portal, Andersen said, “The key thing is to identify and understand that the kids aren’t perfect, coaches aren’t perfect and fits aren’t perfect. 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. ... A lot of times in recruiting it is about this went right. This is why we want them now. In the portal, something might have gone wrong for them to be in there.”
All told, Utah State should have at least 16 players in the 2020 recruiting class, which will go a long way to replacing 15 departed seniors, as well as quarterback Jordan Love.