Blake Anderson on the USU sideline during their game vs Air Force on Oct. 8, 2022. Photo by Lorene Hale.
LOGAN – On national signing day Utah State football announced its full 2023 signing class comprising of 42 players, including 23 incoming high school athletes, 16 junior college transfers and three four-year institution transfers.
This is one of the largest signing classes for Blake Anderson in his time as a head coach. Last year the Aggies brought in 30 players, including a mere two junior college transfers. This February USU has added 16 junior college guys. A big part of having this many players in the class is due to a waver that has allowed programs to sign more than the previous maximum of 25 signees per class.
Many of these players were previously announced as signees at the end of the early signing period. In all, 19 new players were announced including 12 high school athletes, six junior college transfers and one four-year transfer.
Anderson said they are “99.9 percent done with the class” but at the beginning of his comments did acknowledge the reality that the transfer portal makes adding more players during spring a likely possibility.
Here are the players added to the already known members of the signing class along with breakdowns and quotes from Anderson. The full audio of Anderson’s press conference can be found on 1069thefan.com in the Full Court Press podcast feed.
High School Signees
|David Calvert*||TE||6-6||230||Fremont (UT)|
|Cole Christiansen||WR||5-10||165||Lone Peak (UT)|
|Chase Davis||CB||6-2||185||Little Elm (TX)|
|Charlie Ebeling*||S||6-0||180||Corner Canyon (UT)|
|Noah Flores||CB||5-10||170||Alta (UT)|
|Reggie Foster||RB||5-10||200||American Heritage (FL)|
|Jarvis Griffiths||OL||6-3||280||American Fork (UT)|
|Charlie Holbrook*||WR||6-2||180||West (UT)|
|Jed Judkins*||LB||6-2||215||Farmington (UT)|
|Faimafili Snuka*||LB||6-1||230||West (UT)|
|Bryan Vogl||DT||6-2||250||Cedar Valley (UT)|
|Jaeden Wright||LB||6-0||190||Pleasant Grove (UT)|
*Player is signing and will serve a two-year mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Junior College Transfers
|Name||Pos.||Ht||Wr||Previous School||2022 Stats|
|Devin Dye||S||6-1||185||Palomar College||59 tackles, 2.0 TFL, 2 INT, 1 PD|
|Jake Hellmann||OL||6-6||300||College of San Mateo||No major stats|
|Arcelles Johnson Jr.||WR||6-5||190||Moorpark College||22 rec, 244 rec yards, 4 TDs|
|Vaughn Mamea||DT||6-2||335||College of Sam Mateo||13 tackles, 3.0 TFL, 1.0 sacks|
|Falepouono Mosley||DT||6-1||290||College of San Mateo||10 tackles, 0.5 TFL|
|William Testa||K||5-11||190||New Mexico Military Institute||14-23 FG, 26-28 PAT|
Division I transfers
|Name||Pos.||Ht||Wt||Previous School||2022 Snaps Played||2022 Stats|
|Colby Bowman||WR||6-2||200||Stanford||77||7 rec, 44 rec yards|
Replacing losses on the defensive line
Utah State’s defensive line was decimated by transfers with its top three pass-rushers and two rotation defensive linemen leaving via the portal. Anderson said three different times that he expected some attrition at that position and sought to prepare with this recruiting class. At one point he discussed it in the context of two players he added, Vaughn Mamea and Falepouono Mosley, a pair of teammates from San Mateo College.
“Two big interior defensive linemen,” Anderson said of Mamea, who is listed at 335 pounds, and Falepouono, who’s listed at 290 pounds. “We had some guys leave and put their name in the portal. We expected those things to happen and we were prepared. Both of those guys are on campus, in spring practice and getting acclimated as we speak. And they’ll bring size, physicality and power to the interior. We lose a guy like (Tavian) Coleman at 280 [pounds]. We replace him with a guy that’s 300, 310. We lose a guy like (Phillip Paea) and we bring in a guy that’s 330. So we’ve been prepared for some attrition and I feel like our staff did a great job at having guys ready to go.”
Another key addition could be Cian Slone who was added in the early signing period out of American River College. Though a bit slight at just 220 pounds Anderson said, “he could be the featured guy” at defensive end.
“Cian Slone’s tape was the most fun of any guy I watched in this entire recruiting process,” Anderson said. “He plays harder than anybody we’ve seen on film. He reminds me of watching Nick Heninger play.”
In all, five of the 16 junior college transfers are defensive linemen along with three high school players. Time will tell how well these players replace what would have been a very experienced defensive line.
Still trying to find an offensive tackle
Utah State took a hit on the offensive line as well, though largely through graduation. Both starting offensive tackles, Alfred Edwards and Jacob South, along with center Chandler Dolphin left via graduation. The Aggies also lost one starter, right guard Weylin Lapuaho, through the transfer portal.
That’s four starters gone but USU does have three experienced offensive linemen returning, guys who played significant snaps in 2022 including Wade Meacham (the starter at left guard), interior lineman Falepule Alo and tackle Cole Motes. But one position that is still thinner than Anderson would like is offensive tackle. He said the team is still looking to add another player at that position.
“That is a position we will continue to recruit throughout the course of the spring and summer and potentially take a veteran player, a portal player,” Anderson said. “But we do have, I think a good solid young group of guys.”
One incoming junior college transfer who could help fill the position is Jake Hellmann. He’s the only JC offensive lineman addition. The Aggies added two high school offensive tackles, though neither are too likely to see time in year one.
Adding length at wide receiver
The Aggies lost their top two outside wide receivers from this last year in Brian Cobbs and Justin McGriff. They have two slot receivers returning – Terrell Vaughn and Kyle Van Leeuwen – but need to replace the size lost on the outside. This is something Anderson has clearly tried to address with the incoming receivers.
“I feel like we’ve really helped that room,” Anderson said. “Felt like we’ve done a good job at creating length there.”
The Aggies added the 6-foot-2 Colby Bowman out of Stanford and the 6-foot-5 JC transfer Arcelles Johnson Jr., who, according to Anderson, has a 6-foot-7 wingspan and a “tremendous catch radius.” Two taller freshmen wideouts, 6-foot-2 Charlie Holbrooks and 6-foot-3 Jackson Olsen are also joining (Olsen, according to Anderson having a 6-foot-8 wingspan).
One earlier signee, Micah Davis, isn’t as tall (only 5-foot-11) but will compete with these outside receivers for those spots on the depth chart according to Anderson. Davis spent two seasons at Air Force before dropping down to the junior college level. In 2021 in a game against the Aggies, Davis had 142 scrimmage yards (32 rushing, 110 receiving) with two touchdowns.
Adding length at corner
Wide receiver isn’t the only position the Aggies are trying to get longer at. Utah State has consistently made moves to try and get taller corners to avoid mismatches on the outside. Moving Ajani Carter to corner was one such effort and the Aggies are making another similar move by moving safety Dominic Tatum to play corner, something Anderson called a “no-brainer.” It’s a move the coaching staff had already started to put into practice last year. According to Pro Football Focus snap tracking data, from Week 10 onward, Tatum played more snaps at slot corner (143) than at safety (83).
The incoming corners and defensive backs continue this trend. Jaylen Martin, an early signing class addition, is 6-foot-2. High school recruit Chase Davis is also 6-foot-2 and will begin his career at corner.
“We have gotten much longer on the edge at corner,” Anderson said. “It has been a position that has been an issue in the one-on-one situations.”
Several redshirt and true freshmen made big contributions to last year’s team, such as Robert Briggs, Weylin Lapuaho and Ike Larsen. As for whether the Aggies can repeat having such a productive freshman group, Anderson said it’s something that’s hard to predict. He put out a few names like Zakkarii Black, Jaydon Bailey, Reggie Foster, McCae Hillstead, Zion Andreasen, and Jackson Olsen, but in the end Anderson said “Who knows?” when it comes to who may step up.
“You always have an Ike Larsen or a Robert Briggs that you’re not expecting, that just succeeds,” Anderson said. “I mean, Weylin Lapuaho, I don’t think any of us expected him to start 12 games at right guard. We did think he was a good player and we like all of these guys. But, who’s gonna be ready? Who’s gonna’ need a year? You never know. I’m always surprised at who steps up.”
A lot of Utah high school signees
This was a trend noted in the early signing period as only one high school signee from December (out of 11) came from out of the Beehive State. Of the full 23 high school signees, only three are out-of-state players. Anderson previously addressed this, saying “we’re going to start at home” in terms of high school recruiting
“We made a ton of offers last year early in the process. We didn’t sign all of those guys, there’s no way to do that,” Anderson said back in December. We’re chasing guys that have Power 5 offers, we’re battling BYU and Utah head to head, the Pac-12, the Big 12. Honestly, nationally at this point, Utah players are travelling coast-to-coast which is scary because we’d love to keep them all at home. We want to start at home.”
Looking for diamonds in the rough
While many of the early signing class recruits had ratings and rankings on national recruiting websites, many of those added this week are unranked by those same national sites. This isn’t atypical for the Aggies given those sites often cater to fans who follow bigger programs and don’t rank lower-level recruits, but it does show that Utah State is having to find great players who have simply been overlooked.
One player Anderson pointed out as a potential steal is running back Reggie Foster out of American Heritage High School. Foster received some early recruiting attention but wound up behind Mark Fletcher, a four-star back pursued by Ohio State, Alabama, Florida and Miami. Anderson said he thinks “we’re getting a steal” in signing Foster.
“We loved his athletic ability,” Anderson said. “We think he’s a great project at the running back position and think he just needs an opportunity. A kid that can be 200, 210 pounds and can run. Just needs to be in the right room.”
Spring practices for USU are expected to get underway on March 14th with the annual Blue-White Spring Game expected to take place on April 15th.