<em>This is the sixth in a series previewing the 2017 Utah State football team’s position groups. The others can be found at the following links: <a href=”http://www.cachevalleydaily.com/sports/article_30eb12c6-8786-11e7-aa63-0f091dd2d683.html” target=”_blank”>Offensive line</a>, <a href=”http://www.cachevalleydaily.com/sports/article_9393f23a-884e-11e7-857a-c7dae436ad41.html” target=”_blank”>Defensive backs</a>, <a href=”http://www.cachevalleydaily.com/sports/article_644a94d2-8913-11e7-9a22-9fcb1ade0158.html” target=”_blank”>Quarterbacks</a>, <a href=”http://www.cachevalleydaily.com/sports/usu/article_a8a3a886-89e4-11e7-87bc-c7c82ea54a82.html” target=”_blank”>Wide receivers</a>, <a href=”http://www.cachevalleydaily.com/sports/article_e740e3a0-8922-11e7-8ada-e310f0f3d2fb.html” target=”_blank”>Running backs</a>.</em>
LOGAN – The defensive line lost some key pieces from last season. Four seniors – three of them starters – finished their USU careers a year ago. One of them, Ricky Ali’ifua, is now with the Kansas City Chiefs.
Addressing the inexperience of the defensive line was the primary focus of the defensive staff this training camp, according to head coach Matt Wells. He said there will be a lot of rotation with the defensive line, just like there has been in years past.
According to the depth chart released Monday morning, Gasetoto Shuster will be the starting nose guard, with Christopher Unga behind him. Redshirt freshman Risitoto Fata will be the third nose guard. Wells said all three will play in a rotation.
“Not all equal reps, but three nose guards,” he said. “That will continue. Gasetoto Schuster’s played a lot, Christopher `Unga’s played a little bit and will have a bigger role now.”
Wells said that Mohelika Uaskie, who had time at the nose guard spot last year, will play defensive end this season. He is listed on the depth chart behind sophomore Logan High grad Jacoby Wildman. The most experienced defensive end is also the lone senior on the defensive line, Ian Togiai.
“He’s played since his true freshman year in 2013,” Wells said. “The case will be the same this year.”
Behind Togiai will be junior Adewale Adeoye, who was one of the players involved in a June 2015 car accident. Wells said it is a miracle that Adeoye was able to be able to come back from the accident and get to where he is now.
“I’m really proud of Adewale and all the progress he’s made since a true freshman redshirting,” he said. “I remember getting that kid out of St. Louis and knowing how far he had to come. That’s an outside linebacker that now weighs 270 at defensive end. He’s a self-made man.”
Togiai said those returning for this season are stronger than last year, that the 3-9 record motivated he and others to hit the offseason workouts harder than before.
“Our guys got stronger and faster,” he said. “Our nose guards, Chris Unga and G-Mac Schuster, they got a little bit of playing time last year, but they’re going to step up this year. They’re vocal leaders and I can see them leading in the future.”
A true freshman and a junior college transfer each made the three-deep depth chart at the defensive end position. Devon Anderson, a 6-foot-1, 285 pound sophomore from Dodge City Community College, and Nami Tuitu’u will each likely get some playing time.
Other players that could play for the first time this season include redshirt freshmen Caden Andersen, Logan Lee, Jake Pitcher, Keith Tambe and true freshman Connor Meyers.