LOGAN – In the final two weeks of the 2021 Utah State Aggie football season, the Aggie defense came up big: nine sacks for a total of negative-60 yards, 15 tackles-for-loss, four turnovers, and only 26 points given up, combined, to San Diego State in the Mountain West Conference title game in Carson, California and to Oregon State in the Jimmy Kimmel Live LA Bowl inside the immaculate So-Fi Stadium in Los Angeles, California.
So how does a defense the following year match that? You don’t rebuild, you reload. Which is what Defensive Coordinator Ephraim Banda has done, even for himself.
“Even for me as a coordinator, I’ve been able to take the next steps in this defense,” Banda said recently during on interview on 106.9 The FAN, “and laying the next layers of this deal in year two…being able to add to the playbook, making it more diverse, different looks and hopefully making it even hard for offenses this year.”
If the Aggies are able to repeat their performance from a year ago, they’ll need it to come from a few new guys this year. LA Bowl Defensive MVP Nick Heninger, Arkansas State-transfer linebacker Justin Rice (who came up clutch throughout the season), and leader of the defensive backfield Shaq Bond are just a few of the several key players on defense they lost. But Coach Banda noted a list of guys that are returning or new guys coming in that he expects to come in and make an immediate impact.
The biggest need comes in the trenches, where the defensive line looks to be improved according to Banda.
“Stepping out there in spring ball we definitely look different…guys like Phil (Paea) who will definitely come along. We already look bigger.”
Another guy who Coach Banda is looking forward to having out on the field is Arkansas State-transfer outside linebacker Anthony Switzer. Listed at 6’0, 210 lbs, Coach Banda knows “Switz” will make a difference.
“When you add Switz to the box and to the front, it really changes you. I’ve been very, very pleased with his urgency, how he’s attacking practice every day. When you look at him he is a specimen, he is big and strong but he can flip his hips and play.”
Even better news for Coach Banda is a couple guys returning from injury, most notably Dominic Tatum who broke his leg in the game vs. Air Force.
With all the success that Coach Banda saw on his side of the ball last year, there of course would be phone calls from other schools coming in seeking his skills and talents. Banda turned them all down to spend another year in Cache Valley.
“It’s never easy, getting to the end of the year, having success and getting called,” Banda explained. “I’m not one of those guys who is rushing to the next job. I want to be really good at what I am currently doing.”
Coach Banda then turned his attention to Head Coach Blake Anderson and how he’s taught Banda about more than just football.
“I know I can always walk into his office and ask about a coordinator, a personal situation, how to handle something, football scheme. The ability to walk in there and coach me through those things means more than anything. The lifestyle he provides for our staff and for me as a family, I need.
“He has been great for me in that light, and that means more to me than a better job in terms of money. When you look at Utah State, it’s special. When you have a certain type of kid who is all in, loves ball, not jaded and knows what’s really important, die hard and all in, that’s a special type of situation you can’t walk away from.”
The Aggies will put on their first scrimmage to the public on April 9, at 12 p.m. The Spring Ball season will conclude on April 23rd with the Blue-White Scrimmage at Maverik Stadium at 1 p.m.
You can hear the full interview with Coach Ephraim Banda when he appeared on The Full Court Press on 106.9 The FAN here: