<em>This is the eighth in a series of previews of the 2016 Utah State football team. The other previews can be found at these links: <a href=”http://www.cachevalleydaily.com/sports/article_a8767102-5db9-11e6-8e72-876267ee69ec.html” target=”_blank”>Offensive line</a>, <a href=”http://www.cachevalleydaily.com/sports/article_c646adcc-5e82-11e6-a8e0-634ab124a813.html” target=”_blank”>Wide receivers</a>, <a href=”http://www.cachevalleydaily.com/sports/article_5c5ed972-5f8e-11e6-b671-7392ae4fb32b.html” target=”_blank”>Special teams</a>, <a href=”http://www.cachevalleydaily.com/sports/article_7e176f5e-62bb-11e6-b5dc-dba717bdd756.html” target=”_blank”>Linebackers</a>, <a href=”http://www.cachevalleydaily.com/sports/article_971bb17c-640f-11e6-99ed-5bf8df6b8419.html” target=”_blank”>Running backs</a>, <a href=”http://www.cachevalleydaily.com/sports/article_f84a79d4-64bd-11e6-bf82-4b060fda5e60.html” target=”_blank”>Tight ends</a>, <a href=”http://www.cachevalleydaily.com/sports/article_3635f838-68fe-11e6-b347-e7cde5aef2c7.html” target=”_blank”>Defensive backs</a></em>
LOGAN – Frank Maile is back. After spending two years coaching at Vanderbilt, the former Aggie defensive lineman and D-line coach has returned to Logan. He now has multiple roles and titles: assistant head coach, co-defensive coordinator and defensive line coach.
Veteran nose guard Travis Seefeldt is also back after missing last season due to injuries he sustained in a car crash. He is happy to have Maile back as well.
“I missed him,” Seefeldt said. “He’s a smart coach and he knows the ins and outs of the defense and he knows how to be a great defensive lineman. He played here and he knows what it takes.”
The D-line did lose two key starters from last season. Nose guard David Moala and defensive end Jordan Nielsen accounted for 7.5 sacks and more than 100 of last year’s tackles. Replacing them will be up to Seefeldt and senior defensive end Ricky Ali’ifua. Wells said he will look to those two as the defensive leaders up front.
Despite all the change, Seefeldt said this defensive line group is the same group that has been around for some time. He said the D-line will continue to be the “anchor of the defense” and focus on stopping the run.
At times last year, the run was successfully stopped. At other times, the defense really struggled to contain the opposing running backs. San Diego State’s Donnel Pumphrey – who will return to the Aztecs this season – ran for 181 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries against the Aggies. It lead to USU’s first conference loss in a 48-14 blowout.
“We have something to prove and we’ve got something that we want to show, that this defense is the most dominant in the Mountain West,” Seefeldt said. “By doing that, we’re going to stop the run, get them to third down and then beat up on them a little bit with the blitzes.
“We’re right there in the battle, we’re in the trenches. So if we have a good, successful year at D-line we’ll be right where we want to be in the end.”
Most of the remaining experience on the D-line comes from three defensive ends: senior Edmund Faimalo, senior Siua Taufa and junior Ian Togiai. Sophomore nose guard Gasetoto Schuster also got some playing time a year ago.
Seefeldt said the unit has the necessary size, speed and talent, but needs to focus on technique.
“The biggest thing that we have to emphasize this year is the technique that we play with and knowing our responsibilities,” he said. “The playbook is kind of where we lacked a little bit last year with the defensive line.”