2020 players not returning: Wyatt Marx (Left Team), Chase Nelson (Graduation), Jaylen Warren (Transferred to Oklahoma State)
2021 post-spring ball attrition: Bryan Lumsden (Transfer Portal)
Returning players: John Gentry, Devonta’e Henry-Cole, Cooper Jones, Pailate Makakona, Elelyon Noa
New Faces in 2021:
Izzy Gordon 6’2″ 205 (NR) – Roy HS, UT – (Preferred Walk-on)
2020 (Sr.) Stats: 186 carries 1,298 yards 11 TDs; 2 receptions 63 yards 2 TDs
2019 (Jr.) Stats: 122 carries 1,060 yards 11 TDs; 4 receptions 59 yards 1 TD
2018 (So) Stats: 23 carries 232 yards 1 TD; 1 reception 26 yards
Offers from: Weber St
Calvin Tyler Jr. 5’8″ 215 (247 3*) – Oregon State University – (2 years to play 2)
2020 (Jr.) Stats: 15 carries 45 yards 2 TDs; 2 receptions 9 yards
2019 (RsSo.) Stats: 12 carries 68 yards; 1 reception 15 yards
2018 (So.) Stats: Redshirted at Oregon State
2017 (Fr.) Stats: 3 carries 11 yards; 9 kick returns 182 yards
Offers from: Memphis
Original offers from: Army, California, Fresno St, Illinois, Lamar, Louisiana-Lafayette, Louisiana Tech, Louisiana-Monroe, New Mexico, North Texas, Oregon St, Southeastern Louisiana, Southern Mississippi, Texas St
In regards to the NCAA mandated eligibility freeze from the 2020 season, what I’ve learned is that the players eligibility will continue to accrue. Once the player reaches his 4th or 5th season, depending on if the player uses a redshirt season, the player will have the option to return to school for a 5th or 6th season and continue playing one more season. The player will then move from being listed as a senior (Sr.) to a graduate senior (Gr-Sr.)
I expect there to be a war for playing time at running back this season, as there are several very capable players in the mix. This might be the deepest group of running backs ever at Utah State.
Sophomore John Gentry left spring ball as the number one back. As a true freshman in 2020, he saw action in 5 games gaining 33 yards on 7 carries. He also added 1 reception for -4 yards and completed 1 pass for 4 yards and returned 5 kicks for 118 yards (23.6 avg.). Gentry played his high school football at North Shore High (TX), one of the top programs in the country. As a senior in 2019, Gentry earned first-team all-district honors as a wide receiver after pulling in 18 receptions and scoring 10 touchdowns. As a junior in 2018, he ran for over 900 rushing yards and 24 touchdowns. Gentry was a jack-of-all-trades type of player, playing multiple positions throughout his high school career and racking up 3,586 all-purpose yards and 48 touchdowns. The Aggies beat out several P5 schools for Gentry, including Arkansas and Tennesse of the SEC Conference and Utah from the PAC-12 Conference. Gentry is one of the best running backs entering the conference. He is also a track star who possesses breakaway speed, at 195 pounds, he is already pretty good-sized for a kid making the jump to the collegiate level. He is explosive out of the backfield, bursting through holes and reaching top speed quickly. He easily makes players miss and knows when to bounce to the outside. He has good hands and a receiving ability that is rare for a running back. He will be an asset in the passing game. Playing at the highest level of football for the best high school football program in the State of Texas will have him fully prepared to contribute to the Aggies from day one.
Graduate Junior Calvin Tyler joins the Aggies for the 2021 season after beginning his career at Oregon State University and will figure into the mix at running back. As a junior in 2020, he appeared in 3 games and recorded 15 carries for 45 yards and 2 touchdowns. He also added 2 receptions for 9 yards. As a redshirt sophomore in 2019, he again appeared in 3 games and had 12 carries for 68 yards and 1 reception 15 yards. As a sophomore in 2018, he sat out the season with an injury and redshirted. As a true freshman in 2017, he appeared in one game and logged 3 carries for 11 yards. He also added 9 kick returns for 182 yards. What I like best about Calvin is his initial burst and I think that’s the calling card of his game. He is thickly built, but not a huge player. The speed that he generates from his initial burst gets him through the line with the power to run through arm tackles and around the edge and down the sideline on stretch plays. He has long strides and hits his max burst from his first few steps, ensuring he is at top speed when he hits the hole. On counter plays, he’s quicker to plant a foot and cut through a seam faster than the defense can react to the play. His ability to catch the ball out of the backfield lends to his potential role as that of a ‘utility player’ that can be motioned out of the backfield and line up as a slot receiver at times. Despite his smaller stature, he is still a threat to take it to the house every time he touches the football. He will benefit from going through spring ball and summer conditioning.
After making a strong showing during the 2020 season, junior Pailate Makakona is looking to build on that momentum. As a redshirt sophomore in 2020, he saw action in 6 games and gained 47 yards on 10 carries. He also caught 2 passes for 12 yards. Makakona spent the 2019 season at Utah State redshirting per NCAA transfer rules after beginning his collegiate career at Colorado Mesa University (CO). As a true freshman in 2018 at Colorado Mesa, he carried the ball 119 times for 558 yards and 5 touchdowns. He also added 7 receptions for 34 yards. Makakona played his high school ball at Hunter High (UT) and as a senior in 2017, rushed for 1,250 yards and 12 touchdowns on 170 carries. He also showed a solid ability to catch the ball out of the backfield as he snagged 26 receptions for 353. He had a similarly impressive outing as a junior in 2016 as he carried the ball 168 times for 1,098 yards and 9 touchdowns. Makakona is a physical running back who is also blessed with quick feet and above-average lateral movement. He can find the hole and accelerate through the line of scrimmage immediately. He also adds value in the passing game, as he is a very good receiver out of the backfield.
Competing hard for the second or third spot on the depth chart is sophomore Elelyon Noa. As a true freshman in 2020, Noa saw plenty of action in 6 games, including 2 starts, and earned 31 carries for 81 yards. He also pulled in 3 passes for 15 yards. In 2019, Noa had his senior season at Helix High (CA) cut short due to a foot injury but not before picking up 126 carries for 1,085 yards and 11 touchdowns, while also adding 9 receptions for 165 yards and 2 touchdowns. As a junior in 2018, Noa had a monster season racking up 202 carries for 2,326 yards and 25 touchdowns. He has the distinction of breaking the Helix career rushing yardage mark which was previously held by Heisman Trophy winner Reggie Bush. Noa has widely been considered the top running back in the greater San Diego area and should be considered a huge signing by Aggie fans. He runs with a low center of gravity that makes him very hard to tackle. He hits the hole with a decisive burst of speed and accelerates into the next level at the slightest hint of an opening. If the hole doesn’t develop, he is still shifty enough to bounce outside and take the ball up the sideline. He also has great balance and stays on his feet often after getting hit.
Looking to make a big move up the depth chart this summer is graduate senior Devonta’e Henry-Cole. As a graduate transfer in 2020, Henry-Cole saw action in 5 games, including 3 starts, and carried the ball 41 times for 180 yards. He also caught 3 passes for 11 yards and returned 2 kicks for 38 yards (19.0 avg.). Before fall camp beginning last summer, he joined the Aggies after being previously committed to byu and receiving a release from his National Letter of Intent. He had intended to make the move to provo after beginning his career at the University of Utah. As a redshirt junior at the University of Utah in 2019, Henry-Cole saw action in 12 games and had 34 carries for 188 yards and 2 touchdowns. He also logged 3 receptions for 23 yards and 1 touchdown. As a junior in 2018, he sustained an injury during the preseason and was forced to redshirt. As a sophomore in 2017, he played in 12 games and totaled 55 carries for 279 yards and 2 touchdowns. As a true freshman in 2016, he saw action in just 1 game and was credited with 1 carry for 2 yards. Henry-Cole brings an immense amount of experience to the table. He is well built and can take a pounding. He is extremely fast, reportedly running in the 4.4 range. He runs hard between the tackles and is tough to bring down with just one player. He is also fast enough to get outside and turn the corner to get up the sideline. Although the stats don’t reflect it, he is a very underrated pass catcher.
Preferred walk-on junior Cooper Jones had a BIG spring ball session and is hoping to make an impact in fall camp. As a sophomore in 2020, Jones saw action in just one game. As a true freshman at Butte Community College (CA) in 2019, he was primarily a return specialist, fielding 21 punt returns for 239 yards (11.4 avg.) and 3 kick returns for 64 yards (21.3 avg.). As a senior in 2018 at Elko High (NV), he had 108 carries for 863 yards and 9 touchdowns, while also catching 15 passes for 349 yards and 3 touchdowns. He displayed his talent as a two-way player making 57 tackles and 4 interceptions, while also blocking 2 kicks. As a return man, he returned 10 kicks for 271 yards for an average of 27.1 yards per return and returned 8 punts for 144 yards for an average of 18.0 yards per return. He also returned one of those punts for a touchdown. Jones does a good job of catching a punt cleanly and not wasting much motion. If he needs to make the first defender miss, he can, and then he quickly finds a seam and explodes upfield. He also does a great job of catching the ball cleanly in traffic. He will likely improve his straight-ahead speed once he gets into an FBS strength and conditioning program. With several upper-classmen return men ahead of him, I see Jones redshirting the 2020 season.
Adding depth to the position will be true freshman preferred walk-on, Izzy Gordon. As a senior at Roy High (UT) in 2020, he toted the rock 186 times for 1,298 yards and 11 touchdowns. He also added 2 receptions for 63 yards and 2 more touchdowns. For his effort, he was named an all-state honorable mention and Region 1 Co-offensive MVP. As a junior in 2019, he racked up 122 carries for 1,060 yards and 11 touchdowns. He also added 4 receptions for 59 yards and 1 touchdown. Gordon is a great pick-up as an in-state walk-on. He sees the opening at the line of scrimmage very well. Once the hole opens up, he can make one cut and get into the second level of the defense quickly. He has respectable speed and is rarely caught from behind once he is in the open field. He will likely spend the 2021 season redshirting.
PROJECTED 2021 PRESEASON DEPTH CHART
2 John Gentry (5-10, 190, So., 1L, 3*)
4 Calvin Tyler (5-8, 210, GR-Jr., TR., 3*)
29 Pailate Makakona (5-10, 220, Jr., 1L, NR)
34 Elelyon Noa (5-8, 200, So., 1L, 3*)
7 Devonta’e Henry-Cole (5-8, 195, GR-Sr., 1L, 3*)
31 Cooper Jones (5-6, 170, Jr., SQ, NR)
36 Izzy Gordon (6-1, 225, Fr., HS, NR)
Coming Up On Wednesday: Offensive Tackle