Gary Andersen, still three-plus months away from coaching his first game at Utah State, is already working on his second recruiting class.
The new guy in Logan, not to be confused with the old Guy, is making sure the Aggies aren’t just some other school that happens to play football in the state. No, Andersen is trying to make sure Utah State is viewed by potential recruits and their parents — perhaps especially their parents — as a destination worthy of serious consideration.
While he has yet to win a game at USU, Andersen is not letting the Aggies’ less-than-mediocre reputation prevent him from knocking on doors and getting into the minds of future college football players.
Saturday, amid a picture-perfect day in Cache Valley, Andersen hosted nearly 400 guests at Utah State. Most were high school juniors just about to begin the most active recruiting stage of their high school days. With players from Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, Nevada, Texas, Arizona and California paying their own way to visit the Logan campus, Andersen became a salesman.
The energetic coach who helped guide the University of Utah defense into a tailkicking of Alabama in the Sugar Bowl only five months ago, was bleeding Aggie blue. With USU president Stan Albrecht and athletic director Scott Barnes joining in the pitch, Andersen sold Utah State as a place that not only will get better on the football field, but will be an ideal place for a young man to get an education, mature and become a man.
Not too long ago Andersen told me he thought the key to attracting recruits to Logan and USU was to bring parents to Cache Valley during the recruiting trip. Though I’m sure the rowdy atmosphere of the Spectrum during an Aggie basketball game was a helpful selling point during the winter, Andersen said he was able to secure a verbal commitment from every potential recruit who was accompanied by a parent he offered a scholarship to.
A few of those later changed their minds, he admits, but if mom and/or dad came to Logan during the recruiting trip, USU got the blessing of those parents during that trip.
Perhaps that’s why this Saturday’s junior day in Logan had as many parents as it did players.
Though it is not known yet how many of those players in attendance Saturday will eventually wear Aggie blue in Romney Stadium, it is just one step Andersen said is needed in turning Utah State from a last resort among local football prospects into a legitimate destination.
There’s plenty of work to do in that regard to be sure.
But Saturday’s successful junior day shows Andersen can change the perception of Utah State — without even coaching a football game.