Utah State signing day: Aggies complete class with 33 signees for 2022

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LOGAN — There were no livestreams of hat ceremonies on Wednesday morning, where an undecided high school senior announced his commitment to the Aggies. Also no shocking turn of events where a recruit committed from a rival school to pledge his allegiance to Utah State.

Whether they signed during the early signing day period or on National Signing Day, the majority of Utah State's 2022 incoming class has been known.

So you wouldn't call it a signing day to remember for Utah State football.

"It seems a little anticlimactic today that we're finishing up the class when the bulk of the work was done in that December signing class," head coach Blake Anderson said during a Wednesday morning press conference.

But despite the absence of drama, the hope in Cache Valley is it'll be a signing class to remember.

Anderson and his staff signed 33 players over the signing period — 23 are signees out of high school (12 of which are from Utah), nine are transfers and one is a return missionary. There are also a handful of unannounced walk-ons who will join the program, too.

According to 247Sports, 19 of the Aggies commits were three-star recruits. The site ranked the Utah State's class fourth in the Mountain West and 77th nationally, which is the highest national rankings 247Sports has given the Aggies since 2004 when they finished 66th.

The numbers indicate a dramatic improvement from last year's class. Assembled amid a coaching change, the 2021 Aggies class finished last in the conference and 130th nationally.

"Every signing class looks great on paper," Anderson said. "We evaluated every guy, saw a lot of them in camp, had them all on campus at some point. I feel like attitude wise and personality wise, character wise, they fit the culture here. Physically they fit the needs, we've just got to develop them. We'll find out like everybody here in about two, three years if this class was really good or not."

Of the signees, 16 are already enrolled for the spring semester and will compete in the spring football season, which will begin sometime after Utah State's spring break (March 7-11). That group includes a handful of incoming freshmen who graduated high school early and the bulk of the transfers players who came to Utah State.

There are notable transfers filling key roles: wide receivers Xavian Holladay and Brian Cobbs transferred from Alabama and Maryland, respectively; Wyoming's Levi Williams traded places with Andrew Peasley and will be another weapon in the QB room.

Former four-star safety Gurvan Hall Jr. from Miami, linebacker Anthony Switzer from Arkansas State and defensive end Daniel Grzesiak from Nevada will provide some immediate experience for a defense that lost five starters.

But beyond the transfer players, the story of Anderson's first full signing class at Utah State was the high school players he brought in, where a major focus was recruiting in state and building depth on the interior.

In-state recruiting

In an effort to cement their footprint in the state of Utah and began building the foundations of a program, Anderson and his staff signed 12 high school athletes from Utah.

Anderson, who admitted he didn't have much knowledge of the recruiting landscape in the state when he first got here in December 2020, has been impressed with the talent available within the state lines.

"There's a solid class of guys that are available to us and the other schools in the state," he said. "And honestly, unfortunately, to the schools surrounding the state because everybody's coming in, we're seeing guys from Utah all over the country."

With Utah fresh off a Pac-12 Championship, BYU heading to the Big 12 and major programs such as Oregon and Ohio State poaching in-state talent, there's no question recruiting top talent in the state is a challenge.

Of the top high school players in Utah, Weylin Lapuaho at 18th was the highest-rated recruit that signed with the Aggies. The second highest was offensive lineman Irae Leilua from Timpview, at No. 23.

Winning some of those recruiting battles, he said, can be difficult, but Anderson's goal for the program isn't to be second fiddle to the other FBS schools to the south in terms of recruiting.

On Oct. 1, following Utah State's defeat to BYU, Anderson told reporters: "They're stronger than us today, but that will not last. We will recruit our tail off, we will develop our tail off, and we will make this a battle every stinking year."

On Wednesday, when asked about what his recruiting pitch is to bring guys to Logan, Anderson mentioned the 11-win season, a decade of success, the Cache Valley culture and Aggies players that have made the NFL.

But he also brought up pitches with BYU and Utah directly in mind.

"Maybe their opportunity to get on the field here as opposed to BYU and Utah is a little bit faster," he said.

"Everybody's got to find the place that fits them. But what we're trying to show them and sell to them and make clear to them is that we do fit in that conversation. It's not them and us as a fallback."

The reality is, with its budget and program size, the Aggies will never be able to match BYU or Utah in recruiting, but getting 12 in-state commits from the 2022 Class is certainly a step in the right direction.

And if they can win some battles, the Aggies can narrow the gap. It's worth noting Lapauaho had an offer from Utah, and fellow offensive lineman signee Kauasi Hansen had an offer from BYU. Additionally, out-of-state offensive lineman, Sione Tavo Motu'apuaka (Honolulu, HI) was originally committed to Utah and defensive end Pual Fitzgerald (Idaho Falls, Idaho) had an offer from BYU.

Anderson thinks they're on the right track, at least.

"I've been really pleased with the footprint. I think (tight end coach) DJ Tialavea does an outstanding job here in the state for us. He is the point person on every in-state player — played here, is from Salt Lake, has a passion for it and did a phenomenal job and gets a tremendous amount of credit for his ability to keep us in the fight (for) players here in the state, whether we're battling BYU, Utah, or guys coming in from out of state."

In-state signees

  • Max Alford, LB, Park City HS
  • Lofa Fonoti- Maikui, LB, Layton HS
  • Bryce Radford, OL, Green Canyon HS
  • Teague Anderson, OL, Lehi HS
  • Weylin Lapuaho, OL, Bingham HS
  • Ryker Lotulelei, LB, West HS
  • James Aloisio, OL, Timpview HS
  • Kauasi Hansen, OL, Herriman HS
  • Thomas Turpin, DE, Bonneville HS
  • Austin Okerwa, WR, Skyline HS
  • Kyler Baker, TE, Green Canyon HS
  • Chase Tuatagaloa, QB, Orem HS
  • Bronson Olevao, S, Highland HS

Recruiting linemen

While the Aggies used the transfer portal to pick up some guys in key positions, much of the focus on high school kids was finding size on the line.

On the defensive end, Utah State signed Fitzgerald, defensive end Thomas Turpin (Bonneville HS) and defensive tackle Adam Tomczyk (Los Alamitos, CA).

Most of the work, however, came on the offensive side of the ball, where the Aggies signed six guys out of high school.

"If you look at this class, I feel like we did a really, really good job of closing the gap offensive line-wise," Anderson said. "We were way behind in numbers, and we were able to pick up, I think, some really solid players that have great futures on the O-line."

The six offensive linemen boast size and height.

Utah State's highest overall recruit, Motu'apuaka, is the younger brother of Aggies senior defensive tackle Hale Motu'apuaka, and is 6-foot-5 and 280 pounds. Hansen is 6-foot-5 and 285 pounds; Lapuaho is 6-foot-4 and 295 pounds.

Teague Anderson, who had an offer from Baylor, is 6-foot-5 and 285 pounds; Bryce Radford, the son of former Aggie Curtis Radford, is 6-foot-5 and 285 pounds; and Aloisio, who will enroll at Utah State following his mission, is 6-foot-4 and 280 pounds.

The addition should prove vital for the Aggies. Utah State, who graduated offensive line starter Demytrick Ali'fua, has been shallow in terms of on scholarship offensive lineman.

"At the end of the day, you got to be good up front on both sides," Anderson said. "So we made a huge emphasis on recruiting some young guys here in the state especially and around the state that we thought we could start building that room for years and years to come."

Will any of the linemen be able to come in and compete right away?

Anderson, who said typically only the freshman who are in spring ball play, mentioned Lapuaho as somebody who is enrolled in the spring semester and could fight for playing time.

Regardless of whether Lapuaho plays, or anyone else in the fall, what the Aggies are trying to do is clear.

"Our philosophy is going to be build the fronts," Anderson said. "And make sure that we got bodies upon bodies."

Offensive lineman signees

  • Bryce Radford, OL, Green Canyon HS
  • Teague Anderson, OL, Lehi HS
  • Weylin Lapuaho, OL, Bingham HS
  • James Aloisio, OL, Timpview HS
  • Kauasi Hansen, OL, Herriman HS
  • Sione Tavo Motu'apuaka OL Honolulu, HI

High school signees announced on National Signing Day

  • Bryce Radford, OL, Green Canyon HS
  • Ryker Lotulelei, LB, West HS
  • James Aloisio, OL, Timpview HS
  • Kauasi Hansen, OL, Herriman HS
  • Saco Alofipe, S, Liberty HS, Nevada
  • Malachi Keels, WR, Orange Glen HS, California
  • Jett Solomon S, Desert Pines HS, Nevada
  • Jordan Drew, CB, Booker T. Washington HS, Oklahoma
  • Thomas Turpin, DE, Bonneville HS
  • Austin Okerwa, WR, Skyline HS
  • Kyler Baker, TE, Green Canyon HS

High school signees announced on Early Signing Day

  • Max Alford, LB, Park City HS
  • Lofa Fonoti-Maikui, LB, Layton HS
  • Joshua Williams, LB, Mesquite, Texas
  • Paul Fitzgerald, DL, Idaho Falls, Idaho
  • Adam Tomczyk, DE, Los Alamitos, California
  • Sione Tavo Motu'apuaka, OL, Honolulu, Hawaii
  • Teague Anderson, OL, Lehi HS
  • Weylin Lapuaho, OL, Bingham HS
  • Bishop Davenport, QB, Spring, Texas
  • Chase Tuatagaloa, QB, Orem HS
  • Robert Briggs, RB, Bellville, Texas

Transfer players

  • Anthony Switzer, LB, Arkansas State, Jr.
  • MJ Tafisi, LB, Washington, Jr.
  • Gurvan Hall Jr., S, Miami, Sr.
  • Tavian Coleman, DT, Trinity Valley CC (Texas), So.
  • Brian Cobbs, WR, Maryland, Sr.
  • Xavier Williams, WR, Alabama, Jr.
  • Levi Williams, QB, Wyoming, So.
  • Terrell Vaughn, WR, Ventura JC (California), Jr.
  • Daniel Grzesiak DE, Nevada, Jr.

Return missionary

  • Bronson Olevao, DB, Highland HS

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