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The Utah State Aggies and Fresno State Bulldogs play without a crowd due to COVID-19 restrictions in Logan on Saturday, Nov. 14, 2020.

Jeffrey D. Allred, KSL

'We're not going to rush out and sign': New USU coach preaches patience as signing period begins

By Ryan Miller, | Posted - Dec. 16, 2020 at 5:06 p.m.

LOGAN — Utah State's new head coach Blake Anderson offered up a warning leading into the first day of the early signing period: "We're gonna be a little slow on this first class."

Anderson was officially announced last weekend as the new coach, so it's no surprise that he wasn't ready to sign a full class days later.

The Aggies signed just one player to its class of 2021 Wednesday, Sky View's corner Isaac Larsen. Utah State also included three returned missionaries — former Weber High wideout Sione Moa, former East High defensive end Seni Tuiaki and former East High linebacker Johnson Hansen — in this year's class.

But Wednesday was just the start of the signing period; it's not the end.

Anderson is in the process of evaluating his new team and figuring out what players will even be back. The Aggies dealt with a mass of transfers before Anderson was ever announced as the coach (one of which, running back Jaylen Warren, signed with Oklahoma State on Wednesday), and that trend may continue.

On the flip side, this year's seniors have the option of returning for another year due to the shortened COVID-19 season. So there's still a lot for Anderson to figure out before he finishes his first class in Logan.

"We're not going to rush out and sign," he said on a Facebook Q&A with fans on Monday. "We need to find out exactly what numbers we have and what spots we need to fill. So don't get impatient."

The new head coach wants to build a program. He took over an Arkansas State team that faced a revolving door of coaches. Sure, those coaches — Hugh Freeze, Gus Malzahn and Bryan Harsin — had plenty of success in their one year hits at ASU, but it was Anderson that had the longer view for the program. He spent seven years there and built a consistent winner.

He wants to do the same in Logan. This first class, while important, is not the end-all.

"You're not going to win championships in the first signing class, but you can lose them," Anderson said.

Anderson said the classes in his second, third and fourth year, and so on, will be the ones "that are going to be critical" to building the type of program he wants. That doesn't mean this one a throwaway; it's just one that will take some time to fill

Anderson wants Utah State's recruiting base to "start at home." He said that on average there are 25-30 Division I players in the state each year and the Aggies should be getting a healthy portion of those. From there, he wants to get into Texas and California, places the Aggies have found success in years past. There is one place, though, that he feels Utah State can really expand their recruting base: Kansas junior colleges.

Anderson has had plenty of success from recruiting those schools, including finding 2018 Sun Belt offensive player, QB Justice Hansen, there.

"If you look back at some of the best players we've had in the last 10 years — offensive player of the Year, defensive player of the year, first-team all-conference players, a lot of different positions and NFL players — that is an area that we think we found value that you don't see on the roster right now," Anderson said.

Transfers, he admitted, could make up much of what will be his first class, especially since Anderson has never recruited Utah before and much of the Arkansas State recruiting base was not out West.

"You cannot be recruiting in today's time without at least being involved in the portal in some way," he said. "And I think you'll find that we will have a handful of transfers that are attracted by the staff that I'm putting on the field — the offensive and defensive programs that they come from, what we've done offensively and the success we had at Arkansas State.

"Transfers don't really sign a letter of intent, so the fans may find out about them in January when they enroll in school or somewhere along that way, not so much on Wednesday on signing day but we will have some transfer guys."

So for Aggie fans looking to celebrate a new signing class, patience is required.

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