For now, let's get this mailbag started for the new year:
Know the aggies go some love from si for next season but who are some other teams that could challenge in the mw - @greggers1868
I was a little surprised that Utah State was the only midmajor ranked in Sports Illustrated's top 25. It probably is, as its title suggests, "way too early."
My biggest questions revolve around what Utah State replaces: an offensive line, almost a whole secondary, some key players in the defensive line, its two most consistent receivers. There's going to be a lot of replacements to be made in very critical areas of the game. Even with Chuckie Keeton and Joe Hill nursed back to health, Utah State will have to spend a lot of time building up its talent in those other areas.
Then again, there are really good players coming back: Keeton, Kevin Whimpey, Kyler Fackrell, Zach Vigil, Nick Vigil, B.J. Larsen and Brian Suite among them. You'll have a group of guys that have bowl experience and know how to get through the grind of an extra-long season. Spring ball and fall camp will tell a lot about how well the Aggies can replace some of the phenomenal talent they've lost.
OK, so that was a bit of a tangent, so onto your question:
I see the familiar faces competing: Boise State, Fresno State, San Diego State. There's little doubt about those teams being in the top half of the league every year. Boise and Fresno recruit about as well as any team in the league, and SDSU seems to just be solid defensively every year with Rocky Long at the helm. I don't think the Broncos take a huge step back under Harsin, frankly.
I think the team everyone has their eye on right now is Colorado State. They lose some outstanding talent in Bibbs and their senior stalwarts on defense, but the Rams are a program on the rise, not unlike USU's 2011 season, and Jim McElwain has a lot of credibility dating back to his experience at Alabama. They seem to be recruiting better talent than they started with, so Utah State will be watching out for its game in Fort Collins next year.
On the West Division side, I think UNLV will be competing again, and you might see Nevada bounce back. Although Brian Polian saw his team slide to the finish, some of those losses were closer than people realize. BYU almost got knocked off. It wouldn't surprise me to see the Wolfpack have a better effort next year as Polian starts to flex more control in the program.
That being said, it's hard to say for sure what might happen next year. It's early. And I'll keep telling you guys "it's early" until August.
highest drafted player in the @nfl Draft from @USUFootball? - @RichEppe
The NFL Draft is such a wild process, it's hard to say what might happen in the next few months. Please take my words with a grain of salt.
The obvious top two candidates to get drafted, I feel pretty comfortable guessing, are center Tyler Larsen and cornerback Nevin Lawson. Depending how things fluctuate, they may be the only two Aggies taken in the draft.
There are two factors to consider: how each prospect compares to those at their position, and how important that position is. I think it's safe to say Larsen, a Rimington finalist and USA Today All-American, is more highly regarded at his particular position than Nevin Lawson (no offense, Nevin). In most lists of the top centers in the draft, he'll be in the top 3 to 5.
But how many centers get drafted? Last year, five centers went. In 2012, five centers went. Five seems like a pretty reliable number. On the high end, Larsen could wind up in the third round, possibly. On the low end, it could be fifth or sixth.
At the moment, Nevin Lawson is probably a third-day pick. He's anywhere from the No. 24-ranked CB (CBS Sports) to the No. 47 (ESPN). But since his senior highlights are better tape than in the rest of his career, some experts may be just getting around to studying the latest film on him. About 30 or so cornerbacks are drafted every year. If Lawson's film and Pro Day numbers boost him into the top 15-20 corners, he could possibly be drafted higher than Larsen.
I'd probably still put my money on Larsen as the top USU player picked, for now.
In case you're wondering, I've also seen Jake Doughty, Eric Schultz, Jamie Markosian, D.J. Tialavea, Connor Williams and Maurice Alexander are others I've seen in various rankings from CBS to ESPN to DraftCountdown.com. Then again, it's still early.
What does the Aggie basketball team need to do? - @USUGeoAg
I'm going to respectfully amend your question, GeoAg, because I hope to address football recruiting later this week.
I think the general theme I've heard out of Logan is Utah State simply didn't bring it this weekend, or if they brought it, they left it on the bus. Jordan Stone said the team "didn't have enough energy," and Spencer Butterfield said all the missed shots created "a domino effect" on their confidence.
Utah State has played its best basketball at home - which may be in part due to the competition they've played there - but has struggled to figure out how to deal with taking punches on the road. The Aggies seem to panic a little bit. They take shots when they aren't quite ready. They make sloppy passes.
For whatever reason, Utah State simply doesn't seem as crisp on the road, and I think that's what the staff is going to take a hard look this week before back-to-back road games at Boise State and UNLV. If the Aggies don't get their heads right for some of these tougher games, they'll struggle.
The Mountain West, even weakened this year, is a hard place to win on the road. And Utah State will not do well if they continue to wilt when things don't start out well in hostile venues.
Thanks for playing. Let's try to get back on the Mailbag track, shall we?
Kyle Goonkgoon@sltrib.comTwitter: @kylegoon