LOGAN — The first step towards Blake Anderson's first Utah State signing class began before the head coach ever decided to leave Arkansas State for Cache Valley.
Last season, quarterback Logan Bonner came to Anderson and told him he was planning on transferring from ASU after the season concluded. The redshirt junior threw for 1,863 yards, 18 touchdowns and six interceptions this season while sharing quarterback duties with redshirt sophomore Layne Hatcher.
"We had a lot of tears and a lot of conversations before he chose to do that," Anderson said. "I didn't like him leaving, but I supported it with the dynamic of that quarterback room and there being two basically two starting quarterbacks."
Bonner's decision ended up meaning that the quarterback and coach could stay together. Anderson chose to move out West, and after examining his options, Bonner opted to join him at Utah State. Those type of connections became the lifeblood of Anderson's first class.
Utah State announced its complete 2021 class of 19 players on Wednesday. It's a class made up of 11 transfers, and a number of those have a history with a coach on Anderson's staff.
- Three players have followed Anderson from Arkansas State (Bonner, WR Brandon Bowling, and All-Sun Belt LB Justin Rice).
- USU running back's coach Chuckie Keeton was on the Oregon State staff when RB Calvin Tyler Jr's first visited to Corvalis.
- Kansas DB Myle Mayberry was recruited out of high school by Anderson.
- Defensive end Patrick Joyner Jr. followed USU defensive coordinator Ephraim Banda to Logan from Miami.
"I never would recruit a transfer player if we didn't feel like he could impact the program, immediately," Anderson said. "I didn't promise any of these guys starting positions, I promised them the opportunity to compete for one."
Of the 11 transfers, six are coming from Power Five programs. Joyner, Tyler, former Texas DE Byron Hobbs-Vaughns, former Georgia Tech DL Jahaziel Lee and former TCU OL Quazzel White. That should help add speed and athleticism to the Aggies' depth chart.
"We didn't want to take anybody that we had questions about, especially in the first class," Anderson said. "You don't win championships in your first class but you could lose them if you're not careful. I felt like we didn't have to stretch on anybody — we took guys we thought fit this culture."
This class will likely end up being unique in the Anderson era. He was hired days before the early signing period began in December. That didn't leave a whole lot of time to build relationships in the state and flip recruits. The class features just seven Utah high schoolers (four graduating this year, three others returning from Latter-day Saint missions) — Anderson thinks that number will significantly rise in the coming years.
The Aggies already have upwards of 20 offers out to Utah prospects for the 2022 class, the head coach said.
"We're in a position where we can do a great job in state and in our footprint at the high school level," he said. "I'd love to see over half of our class be in that area, although I'll say this: The transfer portal … is kind of uncharted territory."
And the Aggies showed they weren't afraid to use it.
Anderson said he is interested to see how the transfer players this season will come in and fit in both into the culture of Cache Valley and the culture that he wants to build in the football program. That begins with players he already knows.
Players like Rice, who is familiar with the Mountain West after transferring to Arkansas State from Fresno State — he was named first-team All-Conference in both places. And, of course, Bonner, who will be the most experienced quarterback when the Aggies begin spring ball. But experience doesn't always equal a starting position.
"Whoever wins the job this spring is gonna be the starting quarterback," Anderson said. "He obviously has the skill to do that but I think we got other guys in the room that have the skill as well."
Utah State 2021 class
High school signees
Martavious 'NyNy' Davis, WR, Etowah High (Attalla, Alabama)
Ike Larsen, DB, Sy View (Smithfield)
Tupou Maile, DE, Bingham (South Jordan)
Jackson Rigby, TE, Davis High (Kaysville)
Otto Tia, WR, Northridge High (Layton)
Johnson Hansen, DL, East (Salt Lake City)
Siona Moa, LB, Weber (Ogden)
Seni Tuikaki, DL, East (Salt Lake City)
Logan Bonner, QB, Arkansas State
Brandon Bowling, WR, Arkansas State
Byron Hobbs-Vaughns, DE, Texas
Patrick Joyner Jr., DE, Miami
Maisen Knight, OL, Liberty
Jahaziel Lee, DL, Georgia Tech
Myle Mayberry, DB, Kansas
Aurion Peoples, DL, College of the Canyons JC
Justin Rice, LB, Arkansas State
Calvin Tyler Jr, RB, Oregon State
Quazzel White, OL, TCU