Recruiting is an imperfect science. That is what people tell you over and over. In this article I hope to explain a little bit about what Utah State coaches are looking for and whether based on potential, size or football IQ it can be found.
Starting with Quarterback I think everyone would agree that we would love to have Chuckie Keeton every year for every play. When coaches are looking at a HS Highlight tape they are looking for the "it" that dynamic quality that can not be taught. That can be from size and strength (Roethlisberger or Andrew Luck), Speed, allusiveness, pocket presence or a winning attitude/ leadership. I absolutely feel great about this position for years to come and I know for a fact the coaching staff knows the importance of having a good QB.
Next we will talk about the Running back position. It has been shown that the current coaches want speed. If a running back can take a screen pass all the way to the house like Kerwyn then he could be a fit. Height and weight are not a huge factor in recruiting this position. Currently on the USU roster there are no RB's over 210 lbs which seems odd for a team that has put RB's in the NFL and relied on it's running game so much the last 4 years. So who is the perfect fit? I think right now it is Michael Smith or Kerwynn Williams. Everyone would love a Turbin or Beast Mode type back but the staff has shown they prefer speed over size.
Wide Receiver has been another position that has improved, more than anything by having a plan. It starts with a Slot WR who can catch a short pass and make people miss. Also they are used in the run game and moved around the field to get in open space. Moving our way out, there needs to be a deep threat WR that can go up and get the ball and can also run by people. This one currently is Ronald Butler. The third WR needs to be a go to target in the red zone and 3rd down. Preferably would be a "big WR" such as Brandon Swindall at 6'4. Right now and in the recent past this has been a big part of the Aggies success.
TE position is one that is a wild card. If we can bring in a great blocking TE that has value but also a pass catching TE is valuable. This is a position that will continue to be important in the multiple set offense that the Aggies run. The opposing defenses won't know if they are putting an Hback, Blocking TE or a TE split out wide on any given play.
Offensive Line I saved for last on the offense because of how important it is. Five positions and 5 different types of players that coaches look for. Starting on the left side the best run blockers (I know blindside etc etc) because that is the way the ball is going to be run more. Both Vavau at Guard and Whimpey at Tackle fit this bill to a T. Right Tackle is Jake Simonich and he has been developing from an athletic big guy to a starting Tackle. Last year he stepped in to play right tackle in the bowl game, with great success. Right guard also needs to be pretty athletic and a good run blocker so that he can pull on run plays and also screens. Center is best described as Tyler Larsen. He was a four year starter and really embodied what they want from a Center. He has to be smart and really just a football junkie to make blocking calls and make sure everyone is doing what they are supposed to. Also because the amount of shot gun it is extremely important to be consistent snapping the ball.
Defense the last couple years has been very good and it comes down to having the best players in the right spot.
Starts with a 3-4 Nose guard that can really take up space and blockers. Only 1 on the field at once so not a high volume position when recruiting. However they rotate in and out regularly to spell these 300+ pound guys. This is going to be interesting to watch this year with new starter and guys that saw time and have experience but they will be asked to be the guy.
Defensive Ends are important to eat up blockers too they should be 270 plus and be able to get some push to stop the run.
Linebackers I could talk about these guys for hours. As I watched the Spring game this year I kept saying "well we have Fackrell and 2 Vigils so I feel pretty good about our Defense". So those 3 guys are going to play virtually every play. The fourth LB will come in and out. Usually that 4th guy would be a good pass rusher from outside. That may mean that LT Filiaga and Tavaris McMillan fight it out for that position. Also Sunia Tauteoli is a possibility to play as well(more on him later). I feel great about this group and the fit in the Defense, like Allstate, we are in good hands.
Safety: we normally play 2 safeties. A strong safety like Mo and a Free Safety like Suite is ideal. The free safety has to have great range and ball skills. Suite has shown that he can be a perfect fit there when healthy. At free safety it may end up being someone new such as Sunia Tauteoli who would be a Hybrid Safety like Mo. That is my vote if it means anything!
Another trend at USU is that we will take a CB that can play even at 5'10 or under. The CB are asked to play man to man but not quite as much as some may think. This has also been a position of strength with multiple draft picks and all conference performers so it goes without saying how important this is.
I'm sure not everyone is dying to know but the Punter should have great hang time. There has been a kickoff specialist and even multiple kickers. Games have been won and lost too often to not make this a priority.
In conclusion next years team has a couple holes to fill but at least the coaching staff knows what they are looking for. Center on Offense will be an important one to make sure we can even improve the O-line play from last year. On defense hopefully SS, Nose Tackle and CB will emerge as a strength instead of a weakness because that could be the difference between a decent year and a great one.