2021 Players not returning: Kevin Meitzenheimer (Graduation); Justin Rice (Graduation), Simon Thompson (Transferred to Western Oregon)
2022 post-spring ball attrition: McKay Breshears (No Longer with the Team); Kina Maile (Transfer Portal); Jaymason Willingham (Transferred to Portland State)
Returning players: Johnny Alo, Sione Moa, AJ Vongphachanh
New Faces in 2022:
Max Alford 6’1″ 230 (247 3*) – Park City HS, UT
2021 (Sr.) Stats: 5 carries 39 yards; 1 reception 12 yards 1 TD; Injured and will miss the season
2020 (Jr.) Stats: 98 carries 1,020 yards 9 TDs; 30 receptions 448 yards 4 TDs
2019 (So.) Stats: 9 carries 41 yards 1 TD; 1 reception 19 yards
Offers from: Air Force, Colorado St, Idaho, Montana, Morgan St, Navy, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Rice, Toledo, Yale
Primary Recruiter: Ephraim Banda, Mike Zuckerman, Tim Burmeister
Avery Ellis 6’1″ 230 (247 3*) – Royal HS, WA – (Preferred Walk-on)
2021 (Sr.) Stats: 32 tackles 15 tackles-for-loss 1.0 sack 1 fumble recovery
2020 (Jr.) Stats: 18 tackles 2.0 tackles-for-loss 2 fumble recoveries 1 blocked punt
2019 (So.) Stats: 79 tackles 4.0 tackles-for-loss 1.0 sack 2 INTs 1 forced fumble 2 fumble recoveries
Offers from: Air Force, Dixie St, Idaho St, Whitworth
Primary Recruiter: Mike Zuckerman
Owen Fa’amoe 6’2″ 215 (NR) – Snow JC, UT – (Transfer; Preferred Walk-on; 2 years to play 2)
2021 (So.) Stats: 32 tackles 8.0 tackles-for-loss 1.0 sack 1 pass breakup
2020 (So.) Stats: 27 tackles 9.5 tackles-for-loss 4.0 sacks 1 INT 4 pass breakups
2019 (Fr.) Stats: 16 tackles 4.5 tackles-for-loss 1.0 sack 1 forced fumble
Offers from: Adams St, Davenport, Missouri St, Robert Morris, Western New Mexico
Primary Recruiter: DJ Tialavea
Cole Joyce 6’0″ 225 (247 3*) – University of Central Florida – (Transfer; 4 years to play 4)
2021 (Fr.) Stats: 1 tackle; Redshirted at Central Florida
Offers from: None
Original Offers from: Alabama-Birmingham, Arkansas St, Bowling Green, Central Florida, Florida International, Houston, Liberty, Louisiana-Monroe, Louisville, Missouri St, SMU, Tulsa
Primary Recruiter: Ephraim Banda, Mike Zuckerman
MJ Tafisi 6’0″ 230 (247 3*) – University of Washington – (Transfer; 2 years to play 2)
2021 (Jr.) Stats: 20 tackles 1 pass breakup
2020 (So.) Stats: 4 tackles 1.0 tackle-for-loss 1.0 sack
2019 (RsFr.) Stats: 13 tackles
2018 (Fr.) Stats: 3 tackles; Redshirted at Washington
Original offers from: California, Boise St, byu, Colorado St, Fresno St, Oregon, Oregon St, UNLV, utah, Washington
Joshua Williams 6’1″ 200 (247 3*) – Mesquite HS, TX
2021 (Sr.) Stats: 104 tackles 6.0 tackles-for-loss 3.0 sacks 2 interceptions 1 touchdown 2 pass breakups 3 QB hurries 2 forced fumbles 1 fumble recovery; 1 punt block 1 touchdown; 5 blocked field goals.
2020 (Jr.) Stats: Unavailable
2019 (So.) Stats: Unavailable
Offers from: Prairie View, Sam Houston St
Primary Recruiter: Mike Zuckerman
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.)
Senior AJ Vongphachanh will once again be the starter at this position. As a junior in 2021, Vongphachanh started in all 14 games and rolled up 55 tackles, 7.0 tackles-for-loss, 2.0 sacks, and 1 fumble recovery. As a sophomore in 2020, he played in all 6 games, starting in 5 of them, and racked up a team-leading 50 tackles, 3.5 tackles-for-loss, 3.0 sacks, 1 pass breakup, 1 QB hurry, 1 forced fumble and he recorded 1 safety during the win versus New Mexico. For his effort in 2020, he earned Honorable Mention all-Mountain West honors. As a true freshman in 2019, he saw action in 7 games, earning 1 start, and was credited with 17 tackles. Vongphachanh turned down late interest from BIG-12 conference member Kansas to sign with the Aggies. Vongphachanh has little trouble getting into the backfield and making life difficult for the QB and seems to have advanced moves for pass-rushing. He is a very athletic player, who has a great motor and he uses those gifts to go out and just make plays. He moves well laterally and diagnoses run plays as they are developing and plugs up the gaps. He is still young at the position and the sky is the limit for what he can accomplish with his remaining time in an Aggie uniform.
Looking to make some noise is redshirt freshman Sione Moa. As a true freshman in 2021, Moa sat out the season while redshirting. Moa joined the Aggies in time for spring ball in January of 2021 after serving an LDS Church mission. As a senior in 2018 at Weber High (UT), he was a threat on both sides of the ball as he racked up 58 tackles, 7.0 tackles-for-loss, 6.0 sacks, and 1 forced fumble. Offensively he pulled in 27 receptions for 370 yards and 2 touchdowns. As a junior in 2017, he starred as a wide receiver snagging 40 receptions for 430 yards and 2 touchdowns. As a sophomore in 2016, he caught 15 passes for 154 yards and 2 touchdowns. Moa is a good athlete, who was athletic enough to be a wide receiver in high school but will suit up as a linebacker in college. He looks like a natural fit as a pass-rushing LB who uses speed and a running start to blow by blockers and get to the quarterback. He can also drop back into coverage and his speed and height allow him to match up with tight ends very well. He can also play well in run support, flying around to plug up holes and match the speed of the running back. He should be a great weapon for the Aggies in the future and should be tough to keep off the field.
Looking to make an early impact is true freshman Josh Williams. As a senior at Mesquite HS (TX) in 2021, Williams ended his high school career with a bang racking up 104 tackles, 6.0 tackles-for-loss, 3.0 sacks, 2 interceptions one of which he returned for a touchdown, 2 pass breakups, 3 QB hurries, 2 forced fumbles, 1 fumble recovery, a punt block that he returned for a touchdown, and an astounding 5 blocked field goals. Although Josh was the starting quarterback his junior season and played varsity football as a sophomore, stats for those two seasons were not available to me at press time. Williams is an extremely athletic player who excels in rushing and getting to the quarterback. Thanks to his time on the offensive side of the ball he recognizes developing plays. He finds the holes in the blocks to make a play. He can use his athleticism to hold his own in coverage, using his length and speed to keep up with tight ends. He plays with an aggression that is rarely seen in a player that spent most of his time as an offensive player. He has next-level speed that is not often seen in a player his size.
Competing to see the field will be junior preferred walk-on Owen Fa’amoe. Fa’amoe joins the Aggies this summer after spending the last three seasons at Snow Junior College (UT). He will have 2 years of eligibility remaining. As a covid-sophomore at Snow JC in 2021, Fa’amoe rolled up 32 tackles, 8.0 tackles-for-loss, 1.0 sack, and 1 pass breakup. As a sophomore in 2020, he totaled 27 tackles, 9.5 tackles-for-loss, 4.0 sacks, 1 interception, and 4 pass breakups. As a redshirt freshman in 2019, he was credited with 16 tackles, 4.5 tackles-for-loss, 1.0 sacks, and 1 forced fumble. As a true freshman in 2018, he sat out the season while redshirting. Fa’amoe was a very versatile player while at Snow. He played several different positions for the Badgers, including speed rush end and inside and outside linebacker. His speed at the rush end helped him spend a lot of time in opposing backfields. His athleticism allowed him to step out at outside linebacker and cover opposing wide receivers. He is an aggressive tackler. He does a good job of initially reading a developing play and then attacking the opposing ball carrier.
Senior transfer MJ Tafisi spent the entirety of spring ball as the starter at this spot and I expect him to remain here. Tafisi joins the Aggies this season after beginning his collegiate career at the University of Washington. He has two years of eligibility remaining. As a junior at Washington in 2021, he played in 8 games and tallied 20 tackles and 1 pass breakup. As a sophomore in 2020, he recorded 4 tackles, 1.0 tackle-for-loss, and 1.0 sacks. As a redshirt freshman in 2019, he made 13 tackles. As a true freshman in 2018, he was credited with 3 tackles while playing in 3 games and maintaining his redshirt status at Washington. Tafisi played his high school ball at East High in Salt Lake City. Tafisi is an aggressive, high-motor player with excellent instincts on the field. He can fly to the football. He hits holes at full speed to meet blocks and ball carriers. He has developed a reputation for being a reliable tackler. He is equally skilled in rushing the passer, stopping the run, or dropping back into coverage thanks to his athleticism. He is a violent tackler who has the potential to make an impact on every single play.
Competing to make a move up the depth chart is redshirt freshman transfer, Cole Joyce. Joyce joins the Aggies this season after beginning his career at the University of Central Florida. He will have 4 years of eligibility remaining. As a true freshman at Central Florida in 2021, Joyce saw action in 1 game and was credited with 1 tackle while maintaining his redshirt status. Joyce brings an impressive overall athletic profile to Utah State. In early March of 2020, just before the coronavirus pandemic shutdown, Joyce recorded a personal best of 11.10 seconds in the 100-meter dash. As a sophomore in the spring of 2019, he posted a personal record of 22.66 in the 200 meters, in addition to an 11.11 in the 100. His speed for a player his size is phenomenal. He is a cerebral player who does a good job of reading and diagnosing what is in front of him and then using his rare speed to blow up opposing offensive plays. He is a calming influence on the field thanks to his confidence as an on-field leader. He can get off blocks and hunt down opposing ball carriers. He can use his speed to his advantage as a coverage linebacker as well.
Making a strong push up the depth chart will be true freshman Max Alford. Alford joined the Aggies in time for spring ball after graduating high school early to enroll at Utah State for the winter semester. Alford was one of the top high school running back prospects in the State of Utah but he will line up as a linebacker for the Aggies. As a senior at Park City High (UT) in 2021, he recorded 5 carries for 39 yards and 1 reception for 12 yards and a touchdown during the first half of the first game of the season before he was injured and forced to miss the rest of the season. As a junior in 2020, he amassed 98 carries for 1,020 yards and 9 touchdowns, while adding 30 receptions for 448 yards and 4 touchdowns. As a sophomore in 2019, he picked up 9 carries for 41 yards and a touchdown, plus 1 reception for 19 yards. Alford possesses great vision on the field and changes direction smoothly. He is already an ideal size for the position. His speed will be a plus and will enable him to be a sideline-to-sideline type of player. He is strong and not easily pushed around or outright blocked by other players. He goes all-out once he commits to the play. He is not afraid of contact and plays with violence which will translate well at linebacker. All of these attributes should help him fully transition to the defensive side of the ball.
Joining the Aggies this summer is true freshman preferred walk-on, Avery Ellis. As a senior at Royal HS (WA) in 2021, he was limited to just 7 games with an injury and tallied 32 tackles, 15 tackles-for-loss, 1.0 sack, and 1 fumble recovery. In a covid shortened junior season in 2020, he logged 18 tackles, 2.0 tackles-for-loss, 2 fumble recoveries, and 1 blocked punt. As a sophomore in 2019, he racked up 79 tackles, 4.0 tackles-for-loss, 1.0 sacks, 2 interceptions, 1 forced fumble, and 2 fumble recoveries. Because of covid and injuries, Ellis leaves the State of Washington as one of the more underrated players in the state. He is big and he is fast. He also spent his high school career playing running back. One thing that jumps out is how physically strong he is. He uses his knowledge as an offensive player to sniff out opposing offensive plays and then demolishes the ball carrier. He relentlessly pursues opposing ball carriers and never gives up on a play. He plays football with a violence that will serve him well at the collegiate level.
PROJECTED 2022 PRESEASON DEPTH CHART
10 AJ Vongphachanh (6-2, 230, Sr., 3L, 3*)
40 Sione Moa (6-1, 220, RsFr., RS, 3*)
30 Josh Williams (6-1, 200, Fr., HS, 3*)
32 Owen Fa’amoe (6-2, 215, Jr., JC, NR)
8 MJ Tafisi (6-0, 235, Sr., TR, 3*)
20 Cole Joyce (6-0, 225, So., TR, 3*) OR
33 Max Alford (6-1, 230, Fr., HS, 3*)
41 Avery Ellis (6-1, 230, Fr., HS, 3*)
Coming Up On Monday: Defensive End