By Brian Phillips
2015 Players not returning: Kyler Fackrell (Drafted 3rd Round Green Bay Packers), Torrey Green (NFL
Free Agent Atlanta Falcons), Michael Okonkwo (Graduation)
Post 2016 Spring Ball attrition: Joe Riggins (Transfer Independence Community College)
Returning Players: Dalton Baker, Brock Carmen, Braden Harris, Derek Larsen, Mason Tobeck
New Faces in 2016:
Logan Lee 6'3" 245 - OLB - Madison HS, ID - (Participated in Spring Ball)
2012 (Jr.) Stats: 41 tackles 9 tackles for loss 4 sacks; 4 receptions 48 yards
2013 (Sr.) Stats: 3 tackles 1 INT; 70 receptions 1,125 yards 13 TDs
Dustin Mathews 6'1" 215 - OLB - Viewmont HS, UT
2014 (Jr.) Stats: 8 tackles
2015 (Sr.) Stats: 168 tackles 11 tackles for loss 1 sack 3 INTs 12 pass breakups 3 forced fumbles 1 fumble recovery; 3 blocked kicks; 5 carries 7 yards; 1 receptions 7 yards 1 TD
Troy Murray 6'3" 225 (Scout 2*) - DE - Logan HS, UT - (Signed 2/3/16)
2014 (Jr.) Stats: 72 tackles 12 sacks
2015 (Sr.) Stats: 98 tackles 14 sacks 24 tackles for loss 3 forced fumbles
Offers from: Nevada, Wyoming
Justus Te'i 6'2" 225 (Scout 2*) - OLB - Mission Hills HS, CA - (Signed 2/3/16)
2013 (Soph.) Stats: 2nd Team All-League Honors
2014 (Jr.) Stats: 52 tackles 9 tackles for loss 4 sacks 1 forced fumble 1 fumble recovery 1 TD;
2015 (Sr.) Stats: 65 tackles 10 tackles for loss 5 sacks 2 forced fumbles 2 fumble recoveries; 6 receptions 142 yards 1 TD
Offers from: Idaho, Navy, Nevada, San Diego St, San Jose St, UC Davis, Weber St
David Woodward 6'3 210 (Scout 2*) - OLB - Olympia HS, WA - (Signed 2/3/16)
2014 (Jr.) Stats: Missed season due to injury
2015 (Sr.) Stats: 71 tackles 4 INTs; 92 carries 727 yards; 31 receptions 484 yards; 10 completions 15 attempts 221 yards; 489 return yards 1 TD; (15 total offensive TDs)
Offers from: Eastern Washington, Portland St
Although there are a lot of new names in this years depth chart at linebacker Aggie fans need not worry. In 2012, the season started with a bunch of "no-names" at linebacker and those "no-names" ended the season with 3 WAC All-Conference nods (Jake Doughty, Kyler Fackrell 1st team; Zach Vigil 2nd team). Despite the abundance of names that many Aggie fans will not recognize, this group of young men has plenty of talent to go around, just not any actual on-field experience. The cupboard is not bare Aggie fans, here are your 2016 linebackers.
Sophomore Derek Larsen has a bright future as a linebacker for the Aggies. In 2014 while he was redshirting, Larsen was named the Defensive Scout Team Player of the Year. As a redshirt freshman in 2015, Derek saw action in 9 games, primarily on special teams and recorded one tackle. The younger brother of former Aggie great BJ, Derek is a young, physical linebacker who runs well, and really is beginning to understand the ins-and-outs of the Aggie defensive scheme. Larsen is going to be a player with an opportunity to play a lot of snaps in 2016.
After starting the spring at tight end it would appear that redshirt freshman Dalton Baker has found a permanent home at linebacker. Once Baker was placed the position he quickly rose up the depth chart and finished spring ball as the number two guy behind Larsen. Coaches rave about Bakers explosive athleticism and I fully expect Baker to see the field in 2016.
Also competing for time at this spot is redshirt freshman Mason Tobeck. Tobeck comes from NFL bloodlines, as his father Robbie played in two Super Bowls and was as All-Pro Center during the 13 years he spent with the Atlanta Falcons and Seattle Seahawks. Tobeck is so loaded with talent that had he not played for such a small Christian high school in Washington, that he likely would have fielded much larger offers than Utah State, and the coaching staff is excited that they were able to find him and persuade him to sign with the Aggies. Tobeck has a reputation of playing the game with great toughness and he has the ability to play both the outside as well as inside linebacker positions.
Adding depth at the position is another redshirt freshman Braden Harris. Harris returned home from an LDS Church mission just prior to fall camp last season and spent the 2015 season getting back up to speed as a redshirt. The coaching staff really likes Harris tough, hard-nosed attitude and his knack for finding the football. Harris should at least see the field on special teams in 2016.
True freshman Troy Murray was added to the fold on signing day in February. Murray earned Class 3AA First Team All-State honors as senior at local Logan HS (UT), after racking up 98 tackles, 14 sacks, 24 tackles-for-loss and 3 forced fumbles. Murray was a highly recruited player that has tremendous upside and potential as a hybrid rush defensive end/linebacker. I would absolutely expect Murray to redshirt during the 2016 season.
Senior Brock Carmen looks to be slated to start off the 2016 season as the second starter at OLB. Carmen originally began his collegiate career at Fresno State but after a redshirt year and a year as a squad member he moved on to have a successful season in 2014 at Riverside CC. In 2015 Carmen saw action in all 13 games, recording 12 tackles and intercepting 1 pass. Carmen is a mobile player who has good ball skills, good size and the versatility to play both inside and outside linebacker spots.
Likely backing up Carmen is a player many Aggie fans have never heard of, as true freshman Logan Lee seemingly came out of nowhere during spring practice to turn in a very solid month of football. Lee had joined the team in time for spring ball after grayshirting the 2015 season. As a senior in 2013 at Madison HS (ID) Lee earned 5A First Team All-State honors as a wide receiver after amassing 70 receptions for 1,125 yards and 13 touchdowns. Lee is an extremely athletic player who hasn't even scratched the surface of his potential as he is still just learning to play the linebacker position. At this point I just don't envision Lee being redshirted this season.
Two true freshman are expected to battle for the third spot at this position. First up is Justus Te'i. As a senior at Mission Hills HS (CA), Te'i earned All-Avocado League First Team honors after totaling 65 tackles, 10 tackles-for-loss, 5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles and 2 fumble recoveries. Te'i has the ability to play both outside and inside linebacker, while possessing the ability to run sideline-to-sideline and still have the state of mind to make a solid tackle. Te'i could possibly redshirt in 2016 but he could prove to be too versatile and talented to keep off the field.
David Woodward in the second of the true freshman that will get a crack at being the third man on the depth chart. Woodward earned Washington Class 4A Narrows District Offensive Player of the Year honors at Olympia HS (WA) and was also a first team all-league selection as a defensive back and return specialist after racking up 71 tackles and 4 interceptions on defense, 92 carries for 727 yards as a running back, 31 receptions for 484 yards as a wide receiver, 10 completions in 15 attempts for 221 yards as a quarterback and 489 return yards for a grand total of 15 total offensive touchdowns. Woodward is another versatile hybrid linebacker that is very athletic and the coaching staff feels like he will develop into a very good linebacker. I would expect Woodward to redshirt and benefit from having an entire year in the Aggie strength and conditioning and nutrition programs.
Adding depth to the position will be true freshman walk-on Dustin Mathews. As a senior at Viewmont HS (UT), Mathews garnered 5A All-State First Team honors, as well as earning Region 2 Defensive MVP honors at linebacker after a very successful season rolling up 168 tackles, 11 tackles-for-loss, 1 sack, 3 interceptions, 12 pass breakups, 3 forced fumbles, 1 fumble recovery and 3 blocked kicks. Mathews has a high motor and a nose for the football and he is the kind of quality walk-on at linebacker that Aggie fans have grown accustomed too. Mathews will absolutely redshirt during 2016 and will look to have an impact in 2017.
PROJECTED 2016 DEPTH CHART
49 Derek Larsen (6-3, 240, Soph., 1L)
24 Dalton Baker (6-4, 240, Fr., RS) OR
46 Mason Tobeck (6-3, 240, Fr., RS)
53 Braden Harris (6-3, 235, Fr., RS)
41 Troy Murray (6-4, 225, Fr., HS)
20 Brock Carmen (6-3, 230 Sr., 1L)
47 Logan Lee (6-3, 245, Fr., HS)
51 Justus Te’i (6-2, 225, Fr., HS) OR
11 David Woodward (6-3, 210, Fr., HS)
54 Dustin Mathews (6-1, 215, Fr., HS)
2015 Players not returning: Jarom Baldomero (Graduation), LT Filiaga (NFL Free Agent Philadelphia Eagles), La'Bradford Harold (Graduation), Nick Vigil (Drafted 3rd Round Cincinnati Bengals)
Post 2016 Spring Ball attrition: None
Returning Players: Chasen Andersen, Chase Christiansen, Alex Huerta, Dillon Filaga, Leki Uasike, Anthony Williams
New Faces in 2016:
Kevin Meitzenheimer 5'11" 235 (Scout 3*) - ILB - Moreno Valley HS, CA - (Signed 2/12/16)
2012 (Soph.) Stats:
2013 (Jr.) Stats: 72 tackles 1 INT 1 forced fumble; 5 receptions 84 yards
2014 (Sr.) Stats: 167 tackles 7 tackles for loss 4 sacks 2 INTs 1 TD 1 forced fumble; 16 receptions 313 yards 2 TDs
Offers from: Boise St, Colorado St, New Mexico, New Mexico St, UNLV, UTEP, Washington
Patrick Miranda 5'10" 220 (Scout 2*) - ILB - Chabot CC, CA - (Signed 2/12/16; 3 years to play 2)
2014 (Fr.) Stats: 118 tackles 9.5 tackles for loss 2 sacks 1 INT 1 fumble recovery
2015 (Soph.) Stats: 102 tackles 4.5 tackles for loss 1 sack 1 forced fumble 1 fumble recovery
Offers from: Florida A&M, Rhode Island, Youngstown St
After having to redshirt the 2015 season due to being declared academically ineligible, senior Anthony Williams is looking to fulfill the promise that he flashed back in 2014. Williams was a late signing in 2014 and he ended up being a surprisingly solid addition recording 10 tackles, and 0.5 tackles for loss, while seeing action in 13 games, with 1 start in 2014. Williams is a proven run defender with good speed, good field vision, as well as a tremendously quick athlete who possesses a high football IQ.
Looking to fill the backup role to Williams is Chabot Community College (CA) transfer junior Patrick Miranda. As a sophomore in 2014, Miranda earned First Team All-State and First Team All-Region honors after pulling down 102 tackles, 4.5 tackles-for-loss, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble and 1 fumble recovery. Miranda is built like a wrecking ball and has a very good nose for the football. Miranda should come in and immediately compete for playing time.
Adding depth is senior walk-on Leki Uasike. Uasike spent the 2015 season on the Aggie practice squad. Uasike brings a toughness and never give up attitude to the squad that will help him excel on both defense and special teams. I expect that Uasike will likely once again spend the season on the practice squad.
Looking to come in and make a move up the depth chart is true freshman Kevin Meitzenheimer. After his senior season at Moreno Valley HS (CA), Meitzenheimer earned California Interscholastic Federation Second Team All-State honors after rolling up 167 tackles, 7 tackles-for-loss, 4 sacks, 2 interceptions returning one for a touchdown and 1 forced fumble. Meitzenheimer had an impressive offer list prior to signing with Utah State. Meitzeheimer is yet another linebacker that is versatile enough to play both inside and outside positions. I would expect that Meitzenheimer will get a long look at the beginning of fall camp in August to decide whether he will redshirt in 2016 or not.
Junior Alex Huerta finally made it through a season with out an injury. Huerta had a firm grip on the starting OLB spot opposite Kyler Fackrell coming out of Spring Ball in 2014, however a shoulder injury during the first week of fall camp that August completely derailed any plans of Huerta finally making his Aggie debut. As a sophomore in 2015 Huerta made 4 tackles while appearing in 12 games primarily on special teams. Huerta has made a name for himself as an extremely hard worker who is hungry to improve, who is versatile enough to play all four linebacker spots and had a really good spring ball session.
A pair of sophomores are vying for the backup spot behind Huerta. First up is former Logan High (UT) product Chasen Andersen. Andersen returned to Utah State as a transfer prior to spring ball in 2015 after previous stops at both byu and Wisconsin. As a redshirt freshman in 2015, Andersen saw action in all 13 games recording 13 tackles while primarily playing on special teams. The coaching staff is really high on Andersen due to his high football IQ, along with his physical style of play and great instincts.
The second of the two sophomores is Chase Christiansen. Prior to suffering a season ending injury in 2015, Christiansen saw action in 3 games, primarily on special teams but he did not record any stats. A former high school Quarterback, Christiansen is a tough, intelligent player who, as the son of a coach, takes great pride in what he does. Christiansen is one of the hardest workers on the team, as exemplified by him graduating high school a semester early so that he could join the Aggies in time for spring ball back in 2014. Christiansen has great length, runs very well and can hit hard, making him one to watch for as the 2016 season progresses.
Also looking to earn a role with the Aggies is walk-on sophomore Dillon Filiaga. Filiaga plays extremely hard, does whatever his position coach asks of him, and in an effort to find a role on this years team he will look to make an impact on special teams.
PROJECTED 2016 DEPTH CHART
16 Anthony Williams (6-1, 245, Sr., RS 1L)
22 Patrick Miranda (5-10, 220, Jr., JC) OR
57 Leki Uasike (5-9, 230, Sr., SQ) OR
33 Kevin Meitzenheimer (5-11, 235, Fr., HS)
12 Alex Huerta (6-3, 240, Jr., 1L)
48 Chase Christiansen (6-1, 235, Soph., SQ) OR
10 Chasen Andersen (5-11, 220, Soph., 1L)
43 Dillon Filiaga (6-0, 225, So., SQ)