Washington state has several newcomers to the state of Utah to keep in check
As the Washington State Cougars prepare for their first week opponent, they know they can’t rely on last season’s feature film.
The state of Utah, which will meet WSU in Pullman on Saturday, will bring a completely new coaching staff with them, made up of different football backgrounds. And not only that.
The Aggies roster has also developed a lot.
Utah State hit the NCAA transfer portal hard in recruiting this off-season, relying on coaching connections to find 15 newcomers from FBS programs. Yeah, that’s pretty much.
Several will make their Aggie debut as starters this weekend.
What follows is a rundown of the state of Utah’s top new signings, Division I WSU transfers should be highlighted ahead of their season opener.
Justin Rice, Linebacker, State of Arkansas
Any other Aggie player is unlikely to have more influence than Rice in their first year this season.
The trained middle linebacker has been one of the most talented defenders in the Group of Five for two years.
In 2020, Rice was a semi-finalist for the Bednarik Award, which is given each year to the best defensive player in the country. The Red Wolves best pound-for-pound player scored 76 tackles, including an FBS best 18.5 for loss and seven sacks.
The 6-foot-2,225-pounder landed on the All-Sun Belt First Team after its first season in the state of Arkansas and has reportedly attracted a lot of interest from NFL scouts.
When Red Wolves coach Blake Anderson was hired to take the reins in Utah in December, Rice was one of four A-State players to join him.
In 2019, Rice broke out and was the captain of Fresno State. He registered 112 tackles en route to a first-team All-Mountain West nod.
The following summer, Rice was named MWC Preseason Defensive Player of the Year. However, the league’s season was delayed due to COVID-19, so he left school to find a new home where, according to 247Sports.com, he could play a season that would be less disrupted by the pandemic.
WSU coach Nick Rolovich and offensive coordinator Brian Smith met Rice’s Fresno State teams while the two were training in Hawaii before shipping to Pullman.
“I knew he was a talented player and I know they will count on him,” said Smith.
Anderson compared Rice to key WSU linebacker Jahad Woods, a 40-game Cougar starter. Both standouts have “a nose for the ball” and take on a kind of “coach on the field,” Anderson said during a press conference on Monday.
Logan Bonner, quarterback, state of Arkansas
As with the WSU, the aggies’ situation with the quarterback is unsolved.
Bonner followed coach Anderson from Arkansas State to challenge returnees Andrew Peasley for the starting job.
On the official Utah State Week 1 depth map, the two juniors are listed side by side as potential starters.
Anderson said there is a “real chance” that both will play on Saturday but he would prefer that not to happen.
If Cougs coach Nick Rolovich had to guess, he’d probably expect to see Bonner on the first team.
“The quarterback who came over shows a lot of skill, a lot of talent,” said Rolovich.
“He did a good job in Arkansas State – he ran the system very well.”
In contrast to Peasley’s mobile style, Bonner is a pure pocket passer – in 24 career games he is 62 yards in a hurry.
The 6-foot-1,230 pound block was most effective in Anderson’s up-tempo, quick-release offensive in the state of Arkansas. The same system was introduced in the state of Utah.
In 15 launches between 2019 and 20, Bonner achieved 2,915 yards with a completion rate of 59.5%, which produced 11.8 yards per completion. He scored 28 touchdowns against seven interceptions.
Bonner, an All-SBC Honorable Mention last year, sustained a foot injury at the end of the season after four starts at the start of the 2019 season. He went 91 of 153, collected 1,052 yards, 10 touchdowns and only one interception despite the limited playing time.
Anderson said he was thoroughly impressed with Peasley’s spring and fall camp performances, but it’s worth asking if the Aggies would be better off starting a quarterback who has been used to Anderson’s offense for a number of years.
Byron Vaughns, defensive end, Texas
Vaughns was good enough as a Redshirt freshman in 2019 to see the field in 10 games for the Longhorns.
The 6-4, 230-pound junior edge rusher had a total of 14 tackles this year and then disappeared from the roster for unspecified reasons prior to the 2020 Texas campaign.
His name reappeared on the transfer portal in October, and three months later he promised to move to the state of Utah under his new staff.
Vaughns is listed on the Aggies depth chart as a co-starter alongside Nick Heninger in his third year, an All-MWC pick last year.
A native of Fort Worth, Texas, was a three-star recruit in Eastern Hills and was ranked the No. 53 college contender in the Lone Star State powerhouse by 247Sports.com.
Patrick Joyner Jr., defensive ending, Miami
Joyner Jr. finished his prep career in Florida as a four-star contender (ESPN) and was recognized as one of the top 40 edge rushers in the country by ESPN and 247Sports.com.
The state of Utah would do well to realize the full potential of the former hurricane.
Joyner played for The U from 2018-20 but appeared in just nine games. He was disabled by an injury in 2019.
The 6-2, 230-pound junior is a first stringer for the Aggies.
Ephraim Banda, the new Utah state defense coordinator, has previously been Miami co-DC / Safeties coach for the past five seasons. Joyner Jr. accompanied Banda to Logan, Utah.
Joyner and Vaughns will compete against reliable WSU tackles in senior Abe Lucas and Liam Ryan.
“There will certainly be some good guys that we need to have a game plan for,” said Lucas. “But we treat him like every other day, don’t let him get too big and don’t overlook the next opponent.”
Quazzel White, Guard, TCU
Four years ago, White was widely recognized as the No. 1 high school guard in Washington state.
Tacomas Lincoln High’s product ended up at Texas Christian, where he appeared in 21 games from 2017-20.
The 6-3, 310-pounder made three tackle starts in his second year in 2019, then returned to his natural position and started as a starter last season before an injury cut his campaign off.
White will start on the right watch on Saturday when he returns to his home state.
Calvin Tyler Jr., running back, Oregon State
Although used sparingly at OSU, Tyler’s experience at the Pac-12 level makes it a valuable addition.
The junior, who will start running back in the first week of the state of Utah, has spent the past four seasons training with the Beavers. He kicked back here and there and sporadically spun in the backcourt of the Beavers.
Tyler saw the field in just nine games but wasn’t a complete non-factor.
During his OSU career, he covered 124 yards on 30 carries and scored his first two touchdowns against Utah last year.
At 5-8 and 210 pounds, the Texan has a decent punch and can break great runs outside.
Four years ago, he was ranked the number 18 all-purpose prep in the nation by 247Sports.com.
Tyler should be a rotation player this season. Devonta’e Henry-Cole, a senior and the team’s best-returning rusher, is missing from the depth map for reasons unknown.
The Aggies’ premier last year Jaylen Warren moved to the state of Oklahoma in the off-season.
“I would be interested in what you do when you walk back,” said Rolovich on Monday. “On the offensive, I think they sure have some guns.”
Brandon Bowling, wide receiver, state of Arkansas
Bowling was an elusive passport catcher out of the slot and added depth to an already crowded reception room when it signed up in the state of Utah in January.
Bowling (5-9, 185 pounds) shares the initial reps with electrical program vet Deven Thompkins.
The senior received an All-SBC Honorable Mention last season, his most statistically productive year. Bowling started in nine of Arkansas State’s eleven games, snapping 39 receptions for 507 yards and seven touchdowns.
It helps that he and Bonner have a strong relationship.