2021 Players not returning: Cash Gilliam (Graduation); Patrick Maddox (Transfer Portal)
2022 post-spring ball attrition: Keith Harris (Transfer Portal)
Returning players: Kaleo Neves
New Faces in 2022:
Lofa Fonoti-Maikui 6’1″ 190 (247 3*) – Northridge HS, UT
2021 (Sr.) Stats: 161 completions 258 attempts 2,824 yards 27 touchdowns 10 interceptions; 47 carries 301 yards 7 touchdowns; 54 tackles 2.0 tackles-for-loss 1 interception 2 pass breakups.
2020 (Jr.) Stats: 78 tackles 6.0 tackles-for-loss 5.0 sacks 1 QB hurry 1 pass breakup 1 forced fumble; 6 carries 30 yards 2 TDs; 2 receptions 17 yards
2019 (So.) Stats: 77 tackles 3.0 sacks 1 INT
Offers from: Snow JC
Primary Recruiter: Nick Paremski, Blake Anderson
Omari Okeke 6’2″ 190 (NR) – Cerritos CC, CA – (Transfer; 3 years to play 2)
2021 (So.) Stats: 15 tackles 0.5 tackles-for-loss 0.5 sacks 1 pass breakup
2020 (So.) Stats: Season canceled due to covid
2019 (Fr.) Stats: 35 tackles 0.5 tackles-for-loss 2 INTs 1 pass breakup 1 fumble recovery
Offers from: Hawaii
Primary Recruiter: Nick Paremski
Bronson Olevao 6’1″ 215 (247 2*) – Highland HS, UT
2018 (Sr.) Stats: 35 tackles 4.0 tackles-for-loss 2 INTs; 60 carries 702 yards 9 TDs; 6 receptions 217 yards 2 TDs; 9 completions 20 attempts 187 yards 3 TDs; 1 punt return 21 yards
2017 (Jr.) Stats: 25 tackles 2.0 tackles-for-loss 2 INTs; 18 carries 58 yards; 1 completion 6 attempts 6 yards; 2 punt returns 14 yards
2016 (So.) Stats: 8 tackles; 7 carries 85 yards 1 TD; 2 kick returns 48 yards
2015 (Fr.) Stats: 2 tackles
Offers from: Weber St
Anthony Switzer 6’0″ 210 (247 3*) – Arkansas State University – (Transfer; 3 years to play 2)
2021 (Jr.) Stats: 38 tackles 2 pass breakups 1 forced fumble
2020 (So.) Stats: 30 tackles 1 INT 2 pass breakups 2 forced fumbles
2019 (Fr.) Stats: 23 tackles
Original Offers from: Arkansas St, Morgan St, Tennessee-Martin
In regards to the NCAA-mandated eligibility freeze from the 2020 season, what I’ve learned is the player’s 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.)
After having an impressive spring ball session, I would have had senior transfer Anthony Switzer inked as the starter at this position. However, he suffered an injury during the spring game and could potentially have to medically redshirt and miss the 2022 season. Switzer joined the Aggies in time for spring ball after beginning his collegiate career at Arkansas State University. He will have 3 years to complete his final 2 seasons of eligibility. As a junior at Arkansas State in 2021, Switzer saw action in 8 games and totaled 38 tackles, 2 pass breakups, and 1 forced fumble. As a sophomore in 2019, he tallied 30 tackles, 1 interception, 2 pass breakups, and 2 forced fumbles. As a true freshman in 2019, he recorded 23 tackles. Switzer is a prototypical striker. He is a player who can roam all over the field to make plays. He is a violent tackler who is equally skilled in defending the run and the pass. He can cover opposing offensive players from the slot, tight end, or out of the backfield. He is a player with a high football IQ who uses that to diagnose a play early and then uses his athleticism to make a big hit. His versatility will be a big plus for the Aggies as it will allow him to be used in several different roles.
Possibly getting the nod as the starter at this position will be junior Kaleo Neves. As a sophomore in 2021, Neves played primarily on special teams in 13 games but did not record any stats. As a redshirt freshman in 2020, he played in all 6 games, earning 1 start and recording 5 tackles. As a true freshman in 2019, Neves played in 4 games, while maintaining his redshirt status and was credited with 2 tackles. As a senior at Timpview High (UT) in 2018, Neves played through an injury-plagued season that limited him to just 8 games. Despite the injury bug, he was able to log an impressive 28 tackles, 11.0 tackles-for-loss, 7.0 sacks, and 6 quarterback hurries. Neves is a quick-twitch athlete with light, bouncing feet. He can stick his foot in the ground and redirect quickly to mirror the change of direction from running backs and quarterbacks. He is a textbook tackler who can run all over the field, whether it is in coverage or as a blitzer. He does a great job putting himself in a position to be around the ball to make a play. When in coverage, he’s good in zone coverage where he can keep the play in front of him and close in to make a big open field tackle.
Junior college transfer junior Omari Okeke joined the Aggies this summer and will join the competition for playing time immediately. Okeke began his collegiate career at Cerritos Community College and has 3 years to complete his final 2 seasons of eligibility. As a covid-sophomore in 2021, Okeke tallied 15 tackles, 0.5 tackles-for-loss, 0.5 sacks, and 1 pass breakup in just 4 games before an injury forced him to miss the rest of the season. As a sophomore in 2020, his season was canceled due to covid. As a true freshman in 2019, he turned in a strong season pulling in 35 tackles, 0.5 tackles-for-loss, 2 interceptions, 1 pass breakup, and 1 fumble recovery. Okeke is a long, rangy athlete. He is versatile enough to play several positions in the defensive secondary. He is a physical force in the run game and is not only capable of making the big hit but he is a sound, reliable tackler as well. He has a wide range of coverage skills and can play both zone and man coverage. He does a good job of diagnosing, reading, and reacting to opposing offensive plays.
Competing to see playing time early is true freshman Lofa Fonoti-Maikui. Fonoti-Maikui joined the Aggies in time for spring ball after graduating high school early to enroll at Utah State for the winter semester. As a senior at Northridge HS (UT) in 2021, Fonoti-Maikui pulled double-duty as a quarterback and a linebacker. As a defensive player, he rolled up 54 tackles, 2.0 tackles-for-loss, 1 interception, and 2 pass breakups. As a junior in 2020, he racked up 78 tackles, 6.0 tackles-for-loss, 5.0 sacks, 1 QB hurry, 1 pass breakup, and 1 forced fumble. As a sophomore in 2019, he accumulated 77 tackles, 6.0 tackles-for-loss, 3.0 sacks, and 1 interception. With Fonoti-Maikui being athletic enough to play both ways in high school his time as a quarterback should help him understand how to read plays effectively on defense. He has long arms and a good frame and there will be plenty of room for him to continue to add the healthy weight necessary to take the pounding that comes with playing at the FBS level. Thanks in large part to his excellent feel for the game, he plays downhill much of the time with little to no hesitation, and that allows him to meet opposing ball carriers at the line of scrimmage or in the backfield. He does a good job of not getting caught up in the clutter of the play and sifting through bodies to find the ball carrier. Once he does he is a solid tackler that does his best to wrap up as opposed to using his shoulder to just try and run through people. He is also agile enough that he can be counted on to drop into coverage and do an effective job.
After spending two seasons away while serving an LDS Church mission true freshman Bronson Olevao is eager to get on the field and compete. Olevao joined the Aggies in time to participate in spring ball. As a senior at Highland HS (UT) in 2018, Olevao was a jack-of-all-trades playing multiple positions on both sides of the ball, as a defensive player he totaled 35 tackles, 4.0 tackles-for-loss, and 2 interceptions. As a junior in 2017, he rolled up 25 tackles, 2.0 tackles-for-loss, and 2 interceptions. As a sophomore in 2016, he recorded 8 tackles. As a freshman in 2015, he was credited with 2 tackles. I would say the coaching staff could potentially still be deciding to see where Olevao fits schematically into the program. He is clearly a capable athlete as he performed at a high level at several positions in high school. He is confident, reliable, and works hard. He is explosive and very talented as an athlete. He is at his best when he’s responsible for large parts of the field and can run around to make a play. He can close in on a pass to make a deflection or an interception. He can also deliver a tackle while running full speed. He is fast and strong and has a high football IQ. He is like having a coach on the field. He understands both offensive and defensive systems and plays with passion
PROJECTED 2022 PRESEASON DEPTH CHART
23 Kaleo Neves (6-1, 195, Jr., 2L, 3*)
15 Omari Okeke (6-2, 190, Jr., JC, NR) OR
28 Lofa Fonoti-Maikui (6-1, 190, Fr., HS, 3*) OR
14 Bronson Olevao (6-1, 215, Fr., HS, 2*)
1 Anthony Switzer (6-0, 210, Sr., TR 3*) – OUT WITH AN INJURY
Coming Up On Friday: Inside Linebacker