LOGAN, Utah (ABC4 Sports) – Coming off one of the greatest turnarounds in college football history last season, Utah State opened spring practice on Monday hoping to build on what they accomplished in 2021.
The defending Mountain West Conference champions kicked off spring practice under second-year head coach Blake Anderson with 98 players at Merlin Olsen Field at Maverik Stadium.
Of the 98 players that were donning helmets, practice jerseys and shorts, 26 are seniors, 30 are juniors, 13 are sophomores and 29 are freshmen.
“It’s good to get back out here,” said Anderson, who led the Aggies from one victory in the Covid-shortened 2020 season to 11 victories last year. “I thought the energy level and competitive nature was really good and it will be fun to watch some of these new guys get acclimated and see what they can do. We have obviously paid attention in the meeting rooms with our install and you could see that on both sides of the ball today. Guys were lining up quickly and communicating, and that is a big key.”
This spring, Utah State returns 13 starters (O-8, D-5) as part of 36 letterwinners (O-17, D-15, S-4) from last year’s team that had its best season in program history as it tied the school record with 11 wins (11-3, 6-2 MW), won its first-ever Mountain West Championship with a 46-13 road win at No. 19 San Diego State, posted a 24-13 win against Oregon State in the Jimmy Kimmel LA Bowl and finished the season ranked 24th in the nation in both polls.
Highlighting Utah State’s returners in 2022 is record-setting quarterback from a year ago in senior Logan Bonner. In his first year with the Aggies, Bonner set five school records with 3,628 passing yards, 36 touchdown passes, four touchdown passes in three-straight games, four touchdown passes in six games in a season and 2.57 touchdown passes per game. He also tied the school record for passing touchdowns in a game (5), which has now been done 14 times by six different quarterbacks.
For the season, Bonner was 263-of-429 (.613) passing for 3,628 yards with 36 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. He was also named the Offensive MVP of the MW Championship Game, as he was 29-of-42 (.690) passing for 318 yards and a championship game record four touchdowns.
Other starters returning for Utah State in 2022 include senior cornerback Michael Anyanu, offensive lineman Chandler Dolphin, defensive end Patrick Joyner Jr., wide receiver Justin McGriff, safety Hunter Reynolds, linebacker AJ Vongphachanh, offensive tackle Alfred Edwards and guard Quazzel White.
Along with its 13 returning starters and 36 returning lettermen from last season, Utah State welcomes back 31 players that redshirted a year ago (O-13, D-18) and 11 more squadmen (O-7, D-2, S-2), to go along with 20 newcomers.
“I have been pleased with our newcomers,” added Anderson. “We identified some veteran players that can come in and help us. Their energy and attention to detail and presence in the building has been positive. They don’t look like new guys anymore, which is a plus for me, because I don’t want them to look like new guys. We feel like we have recruited the right guys physically, and in the off-season work, they have looked like the right guys. Now, they just have to transition that to the field.”
Utah State will practice three more times this week on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. During the five-week period, the Aggies will participate in 15 spring practice sessions, including their annual Blue vs. White Spring Game on Saturday, April 23, at 1 p.m.
Utah State opens the 2021 season at home against Connecticut on Saturday, Aug. 27.