NEW ... 2011 Utah State Preview
Utah State RB Robert Turbin
Utah State RB Robert Turbin
Posted Jul 28, 2011 2011 Preview - Utah State Aggie Preview

Utah State Aggies

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By Pete Fiutak

Head coach: Gary Andersen
3rd year: 8-16
Returning Lettermen:
Off. 28, Def. 17, ST 1
Lettermen Lost: 22
Ten Best Utah State Players
1. RB Robert Turbin, Jr.
2. LB Bobby Wagner, Sr.
3. LB Kyle Gallagher, Sr.
4. SS Walter McClenton, Sr.
5. WR Matt Austin, Sr.
6. WR Stanley Morrison, Sr.
7. OG Funaki Asisi, Sr.
8. WR/KR Kerwynn Williams, Jr.
9. FS/WR Dontel Watkins, Jr.
10. LB Tavaris McMillian, RFr.
2011 Schedule

Sept. 3 at Auburn
Sept. 10 Weber State
Sept. 17 OPEN DATE
Sept. 24 Colorado State
Sept. 30 at BYU
Oct. 8 Wyoming
Oct. 15 at Fresno State
Oct. 22 Louisiana Tech
Nov. 5 at Hawaii
Nov. 12 San Jose State
Nov. 19 at Idaho
Nov. 26 Nevada
Dec. 3 at NMSU

14 years.

It's been 14 years since the last winning season and 2000 was the last time Utah State won more than four games in a season. But even with all the problems and even with all the losses, there's a perception that head coach Gary Andersen has things on the right track in just his third season.

Maybe it was the way his Aggies fought with Oklahoma in the opener and had the game there for the taking. Maybe it was how the offense perked up in a wild 56-42 loss to Nevada. Or maybe it was the good, resounding win over BYU. Or maybe it's just because Andersen is acting like he has a handle on the team.

After things collapsed late last year defensively, with a woeful second half of the season, he decided this offseason that the best man for the defensive coordinator job was – Gary Andersen. He'll personally try to get a perennially woeful defense into shape, and changes are being made on both sides of the ball to shake things up. Utah State went 4-8, but with a little bit of tweaking in the mediocre, Boise State-less WAC, it might not take much to be two games better.

But 4-8 is 4-8, and when three of the wins came over Idaho State, New Mexico State, and San Jose State, with the latter two teams combining to go 3-22, and when the offense failed to score more than seven points in four games – six points against Idaho?! Really? – it's hard to assume that the big turnaround is coming around the corner.

But the 2011 Aggies have loaded of experience returning with nine starters back on offense, including Robert Turbin, the star running back who went down before last season with a knee injury. Four starters are back up front, the receiving corps is loaded, and Turbin should help ease the transition to the new starting quarterback, whoever that might turn out to be by the start of the season.

The defense that's been so brutal over the last several years, and finished 100th in the nation last year, has a whale of a linebacking corps coming back with Bobby Wagner and Kyle Gallagher two of the WAC's most productive hitters. There's hope from the JUCO ranks to help out the line, and the secondary has a few promising newcomers, too. But Utah State has been decent before, and the wins didn't flow.

It's hard to turn around the program, and Andersen is doing everything he can to finally bring home some consistent production to Logan. This might not be a WAC title season, but it should be more interesting than last year, and it should be more productive. And if it's not, Andersen will be sure to change things up once again.

What to watch for on offense: The quarterback situation. Nine starters are back. Robert Turbin is back at running back, the offensive line is full of veterans, and the receivers have good potential and playmakers at all three spots. What's missing? A quarterback. It looked like it might be Jeremy Higgins going into spring ball, but he fell behind the pack and ended up transferring. Now it'll be up to Adam Kennedy and Alex Hart to fight it out, while top recruit Chuck Keaton will be given a chance to take over. Considering Diondre Borel was the main man for the offense, the Aggies have to get production out of the spot and they'll have to live through the mistakes.

What to watch for on defense: Gary Andersen. The head coach has had enough, and he's not going to take it anymore. After years and years and years of Utah State struggling on defense, the head man realized that the best man for the job is the head man, and he's going to personally see a D that gets a loaded linebacking corps back and has just enough size and experience across the board to be solid. Considering the Aggies finished 109th in the nation in sacks and 117th in tackles for loss, Andersen is going to dial up the pass rush from the start.

The team will be far better if … the passing efficiency it better. Diondre Borel was an excellent playmaker who threw eight touchdown passes and ran for seven more, but he also gave away 13 picks and threw one scoring pass in the final four games. The Aggies finished the year 108th in the nation in passing efficiency after finishing 33rd in the country in 2009. When Robert Turbin went down, Borel had to do more and it showed. The coaching staff put a premium on accuracy over the last few recruiting classes, and Adam Kennedy, who has a big arm and is sharp, should improve the offense if he turns out to be the main man.

The schedule: The Aggies don't exactly ease into the 2011 schedule starting out with a trip to face Auburn on the road. But then things ease up with Weber State and Colorado State at home before going to BYU. The Aggies will know if they've improved with a home game against Wyoming before diving into WAC play. Starting with the September 24th game against CSU, Utah State alternates home and road dates the rest of the way with winnable WAC game against Louisiana Tech and San Jose State at home, and finishing up with New Mexico State on the road.

Best offensive player: Junior RB Robert Turbin. Back after suffering a torn ACL, he's ready to become one of the nation's top all-around weapons once again. At 5-10 and 216 pounds he has good, compact size and he can move with excellent breakaway speed, running for 1,296 yards, 13 scores, and catching 30 passes with 418 yards and five touchdowns in 2009. The injury happened early enough to be ready to go and back to normal, and he could be one of the WAC's biggest difference makers.

Best defensive player: Senior LB Bobby Wagner. Kyle Gallagher is a strong inside presence who earned Second Team All-WAC honors, and he'll be a great running mate for Wagner, a 6-1, 232-pound big hitter who has made 248 stops over the last two seasons. Active, tough, and big, he can handle himself well on the inside and it great in pass coverage. It'll be a stunner if he doesn't hit the 100-stop mark again.

Key player to a successful season: Junior NT Evan Huahulu. There's a chance Havea Lasike ends up stepping in from the JUCO ranks and becomes the team's top anchor, and at 6-1 and 305 pounds, he has the size and the look to become an anchor on the nose. However, the 6-2, 351-pound Huahulu, a former SMU Mustang, is a massive run stopper who'll add desperately needed bulk to the middle. The Aggies needed to get bigger, and they did with one key JUCO signing.

The season will be a success if … The Aggies win five games. Considering 2000 was the last time it happened, and they've hit the five win mark just once in the last 13 years, it would be a major step forward in the Andersen era. With nine returning starters and the best-looking defense the team has had in years, there's reason to think things are starting to come into place. Beating Weber State, Wyoming, San Jose State, Idaho, and New Mexico isn't asking for the world.

Key game: Oct. 15 at Fresno State. It's not like the Aggies have had a lot of success over the Bulldogs going 1-7 in the series since 1991. However, the WAC opener might be winnable. For Fresno State, this is the game after the Boise State game, a likely non-conference, high profile loss, and the program doesn't exactly bounceback quickly when it loses to its former arch-nemesis. Last year, the Bulldogs got pushed hard by Idaho in the game after the blowout loss to the Broncos, and they lost the following game in the previous two seasons.

2010 Fun Stats:
- Sacks: Opponents 25 for 168 yards – Utah State 13 for 86 yards
- First Quarter Scoring: Opponents 115 – Utah State 55
- Fumbles: Utah State 19 (lost 7) – Opponents 10 (lost 3)

- 2011 Utah State Preview | 2011 Utah State Offense
- 2011 Utah State Defense | 2011 Utah State Depth Chart