Utah State quarterback Cooper Legas (5) looks to throw the football during an NCAA football game on Saturday, Oct. 7, 2023 in Logan, Utah. (AP Photo/Tyler Tate)
LOGAN — A breath of fresh air for Utah State’s football program has been a lack of drama from the transfer portal. Last offseason’s post-bowl and post-spring exodus’, and the necessary scramble to replace nearly all key contributors across the offense and defense, created a lasting dark cloud that hung over the team until the final moment of the season.
Head coach Blake Anderson continually referred to the offseason struggles throughout the season, citing them as one of the reasons for Utah State’s on-field struggles that led to numerous blowout losses throughout the 6-7 campaign.
This year, things are looking far more promising when it comes to athlete retention. Most of the key contributors from the 2023 squad that still have eligibility are planning on returning to play at Utah State. Of the known entries into the transfer portal, only two — Ralph Frias and Devin Dye — were starters, or even players in the two-deep depth chart.
The result of so many returning producers from last season is that Utah State ranks 38th in returning production according to data compiled by ESPN’s Bill Connelly and college football statistician Parker Fleming. That rank is the best among all Mountain West teams and quite the improvement on last year’s number.
At this time last year, when this same data was released in relation to the transition from the 2022 to 2023 season, Utah State ranked 103rd in returning production — 119th on offense and 56th on defense. That rank did not include the significant post-spring ball attrition the Aggies would go on to face, especially on defense. AJ Vongphachanh, Ajani Carter, Dominic Tatum and Kaleo Neves all left Logan sometime in the spring. Four starters. So that 56th rank in returning production on defense would take a significant hit.
As a direct contrast to last year’s team that had to replace a significant portion of players on the defensive side of the ball, this year’s Aggies are currently slated to return 71 percent of production from a year ago. There are notable losses, such as the graduation of MJ Tafisi, Hale Motu’apuaka and Michael Anyanwu plus the transfer of Devin Dye. Aside from those four departures, though, the remaining two-deep depth chart is expected to come back (as opposed to Tafisi, Motu’apuaka and Anyanwu being virtually the only holdovers from the 2022 defense that hung around for 2023).