That's fairly rarefied air for a program that was a perennial basement dweller for the last few decades. With an 11-2 season last year, it seems folks are paying attention to Utah State.
The players aren't much surprise: Center Tyler Larsen is already on the Outland and Rimington watch lists. OL Eric Schultz, LB Kyler Fackrell and LB Jake Doughty haven't received a lot of national acclaim, but all were all-WAC honorees last year and some of the top contributors on the team.
But the Aggies have made waves beyond Logan, as some preseason watch lists show. In the Mountain West, San Jose State leads with eight players named to various watch lists. Utah State and Fresno State are second with six apiece:
BOISE STATE Demarcus Lawrence, DL • Nagurski, LombardiCharles Leno, OL • Outland, LombardiGabe Linehan, TE • Mackey
COLORADO STATE Crockett Gillmore, TE • MackeyWeston Richburg, OL • Outland, Rimington, LombardiJared Roberts, K • Groza
FRESNO STATE Derek Carr, QB • MaxwellTyeler Davison, DL • LombardiMarcel Jensen, TE • MackeyL.J. Jones, DB • ThorpeDerron Smith, DB • Thorpe, BednarikAustin Wentworth, OL • Outland, Lombardi
HAWAI'IBen Clarke, OL • Rimington
NEVADACody Fajardo, QB • MaxwellMatt Galas, OL • RimingtonBrock Hekking, DL • Lombardi
NEW MEXICOKasey Carrier, RB • MaxwellDillon Farrell, OL • RimingtonBen Skaer, P • New Mexico
SAN DIEGO STATE Nate Berhe, DB • ThorpeJake Fely, LB • Bednarik, LombardiAdam Muema, RB • Maxwell
SAN JOSE STATE Bene Benwikere, DB • Thorpe, Nagurski, BednarikVince Buhagiar, LB • LombardiDavid Fales, QB • MaxwellNicholas Kaspar, OL • LombardiAustin Lopez, K • GrozaTravis Raciti, DL • Bednarik, LombardiKeith Smith, LB • LombardiHarrison Waid, P • Guy
UNLVRobert Waterman, OL • Rimington
UTAH STATE Nick Diaz, K • GrozaJake Doughty, LB • LombardiKyler Fackrell, LB • LombardiChuckie Keeton, QB • MaxwellTyler Larsen, OL • Outland, Rimington, LombardiEric Schultz, OL • Lombardi
With more lists to go this week, Wyoming and Air Force have not yet had a nominee.
While preseason lists are no means of future success, the recognition is a sign that expectations are rising for Utah State. Football observers are recognizing the team's standout players, and expect them to be worthy to be listed among the nation's best.
Is Utah State up for that level of scrutiny? Going in as one of the upper-crust teams in the Mountain West?
That will be a question for the upcoming season, as Matt Wells and company try to keep the wheels rolling. Players report to fall camp on Aug. 1, and then have 29 days to get ready for the season opener against Utah.
The Butkus Award list was also released Monday, and none of Utah State's linebackers Fackrell, Doughty or Zach Vigil made the cut. Actually, no one in the Mountain West made the cut, and three BYU linebackers did.