Defense a priority for 2020 Utah State football class

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LOGAN — Utah State made defense a priority as the 2020 National Signing Day arrived on Wednesday.

The class is headlined by additions to the defensive line from mature players, including two transfers, who could make a difference immediately. Marcus Moore, transferring after suiting up for UCLA the past three seasons, will have two more years of eligibility and James Hansen is coming from Riverside Community College. Hansen, who recorded 25 tackles last season as a freshman, including two sacks, will add size to the Aggies line with his 6-foot-4, 275-pound body.

Dahlin Mesake and Poukesi Vakauta round out the rest of the defensive line signings as current high school-signed players. Mesake, 6-foot-3 and 230 pounds, comes from the lauded program Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas as a three-star athlete. Vakauta, meanwhile, comes from Texas high school Trinity, where the 6-foot defensive tackle was a three-star recruit. He will serve a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, however, and will not be with the program for the next two years.

Eleven of USU's 24 total signings came from the defensive side of the ball.

"It’s a big day," head coach Gary Andersen said at the press conference to discuss his second recruiting class since returning to Utah State. "We wanted to recruit length, we got that done. We wanted to recruit speed, we got that done. We wanted to recruit football intelligence, I believe we got that done. And most importantly, we wanted to recruit kids that truly believe and love the game of football."

"Marcus Moore played in the Pac-12 and has played at a high level. Throw on his tape and see what he has done. He is a very good football player and he has the right attitude. He fits us," Andersen said. "We expect him to be a great player."

The most vaunted recruit, Josh Gentry, will travel to Logan from North Shore High School in Texas, where he was the No. 51-ranked running back in the country. He was previously committed to suit up for the Arkansas Razorbacks before ultimately choosing Utah State. Andersen acknowledged the coaching staff had to work hard to recruit Gentry to Logan.

"John Gentry was a battle to the very end," Andersen said. "(Aggies wide receiver Ajani Carter) is here, and they are from the same high school, North Shore, and AJ has had a tremendous experience in his short time here as a freshman, and he and John are very close friends."

In addition to Gentry, the Aggies signed wide receiver Justin McGriff, a transfer from ASA College Miami. At 6-foot-6, he adds length to the receiving corps and as a junior college transfer is eligible to play immediately.

"He's a giant wide receiver, not a big wide receiver," Andersen said. "You'd think that he accidentally got himself on the football bus and not the basketball bus when he jumps off for a game."

One recruit with a familiar name is Breaker Mendenhall, the son of former BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall, who is now at Virginia. Listed as an "athlete," Mendenhall has experience as both a safety and at running back. He will serve a mission and return to the program in two years.

Andersen said Mendenhall was recruited because of his own accomplishments and not because of his father’s reputation. He said the younger Mendenhall had the option to choose among a number of schools, not just USU and Virginia. Bronco Mendenhall joined his son for a recruiting trip to Logan on a couple of occasions where he was able to spend a day and a half checking out the campus and the football program.

"He decided to come here because he thought that was best for him," Andersen said. "It was great to have them here. It's not about Bronco, it's not about myself, it's about Breaker, but Bronco was excited, as is the rest of the family, that he is joining us."

Of the 24 players the Aggies signed Wednesday, four are returned missionaries and another five will complete missions before joining the football team on campus.

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