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1. The Duke of mid-majors
Through what is now more than five years of writing these offseason previews, I have established certain benchmarks along the way. "Here's where I talk about hard jobs [at ULM, Wyoming, Hawaii, etc.]." "Here's where I note Marshall recruits better than everybody else in Conference USA." "Here's where I talk myself into North Carolina/USC." "Here's where I disappoint everyone by talking about how incredible Alabama is going to be."
Today comes a reliable benchmark. Here's where I marvel at the steady ship that Utah State has become.
In 2012, not only did Utah State finish 16th in the polls and win 11 games (more than former head coach Brent Guy won in four seasons from 2005-08), but the program looked like it belonged, like it had always belonged.
Taking a moribund program (here's your annual reminder that the Aggies won 15 games in the six years before Gary Andersen took over and didn't have a winning record from 1997 to 2011) and putting together a short span of success is hard but reasonably common. Sustaining that, especially through a coaching change, is anything but common.
Four years after finding hope in a 4-8 record, Utah State gets total benefit of the doubt until proved otherwise.
For as unchanging as college football can be, it does change.
In my original USU preview in 2012, I called Utah State the Duke of the WAC; at that time, I was referring to an athletic program that had mastered basketball but couldn't figure football out. USU was in the middle of an incredible run on the court -- the Aggies went 87-17 under Stew Morrill from 2009-11 -- but hadn't finished with a winning record in football since John L. Smith went 6-5 in 1996.
Five years later, Utah State and Duke appear to still have quite a bit in common. The football programs at both have become known for doing more with less. Utah State is the smallest of three FBS schools in a state that doesn't produce a ton of FBS-caliber talent, and Duke has a small fan base and rigorous academic standards. But under David Cutcliffe, the Blue Devils have won 27 games in three seasons.
Utah State, meanwhile, has bowled for five straight seasons. And while the win total trailed off in 2015 -- the Aggies went 6-7 after averaging 10 per year from 2012-14 -- the quality really didn't. They ranked 46th in S&P+ last fall, up from the No. 52 ranking the 10-4 team of 2014 pulled. Their schedule strength increased considerably (five opponents ranked in the S&P+ top 50), and they held their own, especially in a fantastic midseason run.
In 2016, the beat goes on. Last year, head coach Matt Wells had to replace both coordinators (OC Kevin McGiven went to Oregon State with Andersen, DC Todd Orlando went to Houston with Tom Herman). This year, he does it again -- OC Josh Heupel went to Missouri, and DC Kevin Clune followed McGiven to Oregon State -- and replaces most of his defensive front seven and beloved quarterback Chuckie Keeton, who finally used up his eligibility. But if the new hires are up to snuff, he should find things to like about the personnel he returns.
And again, until proved otherwise, Utah State gets the benefit of the doubt.
2015 Schedule & Results
|Record: 6-7 | Adj. Record: 7-6 | Final F/+ Rk: 53 | Final S&P+ Rk: 46|
|Date||Opponent||Opp. F/+ Rk||Score||W-L||Percentile
|10-Oct||at Fresno State||103||56-14||W||97%||100%||+28.8||+30.5|
|23-Oct||at San Diego State||43||14-48||L||18%||0%||-37.7||-39.0|
|7-Nov||at New Mexico||99||13-14||L||77%||90%||-16.6||-15.5|
|14-Nov||at Air Force||63||28-35||L||44%||17%||-5.4||-8.5|
|Points Per Game||29.0||64||26.7||61|
2. Your retirement year is usually your worst
Keeton battled through so much to return for 2015. He led USU to its first bowl in forever in 2011 as a true freshman, then catapulted into stardom as a sophomore; during USU's run to 11 wins, he threw for 3,373 yards and 27 touchdowns and rushed for another 619. He was mobile, confident, and accurate. And in 2013, he improved even more. Through five games as a junior (which included trips to Utah, Air Force, and USC), he was completing 71 percent with 17 touchdowns and just one interception.
And then he tore his knee up. He returned in 2014, looked like a shadow of his former self, and tore his knee up again. Given a fifth year, he returned for his 2015 curtain call.
Chuckie wasn't very good last year. It pains me to say that about maybe my favorite player of 2012. Keeton completed barely 50 percent and threw four touchdowns to seven interceptions. His passer rating was a paltry 94.1. Take out a decent performance against Utah, and it falls to 86.1. That's horrific.
Even worse, USU got definitively better when Keeton missed time in the middle of the year with another injury. Sophomore Kent Myers came in and did a better Chuckie impression than Chuckie.
- Utah State with Keeton at QB (regular season)
Record: 2-3 (second-order wins: 1.2) | Average percentile performance: 39% | Points per game: 20.4
- Utah State with Myers at QB (regular season)
Record: 4-3 (second-order wins: 5.0) | Average percentile performance: 73% | Points per game: 36.3
Keeton and Myers split time in the bowl game and ended up throwing the same number of passes in 2015. Keeton's 199 passes resulted in 1,001 yards, four touchdowns, and seven interceptions; Myers' resulted in 1,593 yards, 16 touchdowns, and three picks. The Aggies were lucky to win two games under Keeton and were unlucky to win only four with Myers. The torch was passed, but Keeton got a chance to finish his career upright, and it was bittersweet.
3. Seriously, Chuckie's ceiling was so high for a while there
Here's what he did to Weber State at the beginning of 2013. Yes, it was Weber State, but come on.
The bar is high for Myers this year, not only because he was strong in 2015 but because 2013 was only three years ago. We remember what a Utah State QB can do.
|FIVE FACTORS -- OFFENSE|
|Raw Category||Rk||Opp. Adj. Category||Rk|
|EFFICIENCY||Succ. Rt.||38.4%||102||Succ. Rt. +||99.3||75|
|FIELD POSITION||Def. Avg. FP||29.6||63||Def. FP+||27.8||30|
|FINISHING DRIVES||Pts. Per Scoring Opportunity||4.2||90||Redzone S&P+||102.8||64|
|Q1 Rk||99||1st Down Rk||75|
|Q2 Rk||31||2nd Down Rk||42|
|Q3 Rk||65||3rd Down Rk||104|
Note: players in bold below are 2016 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.
|Kent Myers||6'0, 195||Jr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8181||121||199||1593||16||3||60.8%||14||6.6%||7.1|
|Damion Hobbs||6'2, 220||Jr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8538||4||5||73||1||0||80.0%||0||0.0%||14.6|
|DJ Nelson||5'9, 200||So.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7833|
|Cade Smith||6'0, 200||RSFr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8067|
|Jordan Love||6'3, 180||Fr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8192|
4. Myers is ready
After bringing in Heupel for a one-off year, Wells elected to promote from within. He still maintains a former Oklahoma quarterback in the coordinator role -- Matt's brother Luke was a backup at OU from 1997-99 and has spent the last three seasons as USU's co-coordinator -- but he promoted young receivers coach Jovon Bouknight, a former star receiver at Wyoming, to co-coordinator as well. I'm going to assume decent continuity.
Considering how good Myers looked in the middle of the season, there might not be anything wrong with that. Myers was up-and-down as sophomores tend to be -- in eight games with at least 17 passes, his completion rate was 70 percent or higher on four occasions and 54 percent or lower on three -- but the potential was obvious. He was able to lead an efficient attack in some games, and he was able to utilize the play-action deep ball in others. And all the while, he proved explosive in the open field. He rushed for 191 yards in the win over Colorado State and averaged 8 highlight yards per opportunity, strong for a QB.
If Myers gets hurt (while USU has suffered enough QB injuries to buy some low-injury karma, that's not something you should count on), his backups are intriguing. Damion Hobbs is a well-regarded former Oregon signee, and there are two other former three-star recruits.
|Devante Mays||RB||5'11, 220||Sr.||NR||0.7883||165||966||9||5.9||6.2||43.0%||0||0|
|LaJuan Hunt||RB||5'8, 195||Jr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7906||106||338||5||3.2||3.3||25.5%||2||2|
|Kent Myers||QB||6'0, 195||Jr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8181||72||448||3||6.2||8.0||38.9%||6||3|
|Damion Hobbs||QB||6'2, 220||Jr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8538||19||109||1||5.7||4.7||52.6%||1||1|
|Justen Hervey||RB||5'9, 195||So.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8006||14||47||1||3.4||1.2||35.7%||0||0|
|Tonny Lindsey||RB||5'9, 190||Jr.||NR||NR||12||93||0||7.8||6.5||50.0%||0||0|
|Morian Walker Jr.||RB||6'1, 215||Fr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8222|
5. Utah State always seems to have a breakthrough running back.
USU began 2015 with LaJuan Hunt getting a lion's share of the carries, but JUCO transfer DeVante Mays overtook him. And while Myers replacing Keeton made a huge difference in USU's output, this move made an impact as well. Mays had a couple of duds (agaisnt New Mexico and BYU: 36 carries, 83 yards), but he rushed for 176 against Wyoming, 133 against Nevada, and 124 against a good Akron defensive front. And his full-season numbers were both efficient (43 percent opportunity rate) and explosive (6.2 highlight yards per opportunity).
A full year with Mays as starter should produce a 1,000-yard rusher, especially considering how experienced the line is. Four of last year's five starters return, along with four of five second-stringers.
Hunt struggled drastically in 2015, but if he is ineffective again, USU has a few other options. Either of two three-star youngsters (sophomore Justen Hervey, freshman Morian Walker Jr.) could break through, and Tonny Lindsey was effective in a small handful of carries.
|Rivals||247 Comp.||Targets||Catches||Yards||Catch Rate||Target
|Wyatt Houston||TE||6'5, 255||Sr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7726||45||25||307||55.6%||12.0%||6.8||57.8%||48.9%||1.33|
|Andrew Rodriguez||WR-T||5'10, 185||Sr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.7000||37||27||281||73.0%||9.8%||7.6||54.1%||40.5%||1.62|
|LaJuan Hunt||RB||5'8, 195||Jr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7906||30||27||238||90.0%||8.0%||7.9||43.3%||43.3%||1.69|
|Braelon Roberts||WR-Z||6'3, 200||Jr.||3 stars (5.6)||NR||25||17||150||68.0%||6.6%||6.0||60.0%||56.0%||0.97|
|Tyler Fox||WR-Z||5'11, 175||So.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8172||16||5||75||31.3%||4.3%||4.7||50.0%||25.0%||1.55|
|Kennedy Williams||WR-T||5'8, 160||Sr.||NR||NR||15||6||62||40.0%||4.0%||4.1||60.0%||40.0%||0.95|
|Zach Van Leeuwen||WR-X||6'0, 185||So.||2 stars (5.4)||NR||10||6||61||60.0%||2.7%||6.1||80.0%||50.0%||1.15|
|Dax Raymond||TE||6'5, 235||So.||2 stars (5.2)||NR||9||4||72||44.4%||2.4%||8.0||33.3%||44.4%||1.65|
|Jaren Colston-Green||WR||6'3, 205||Jr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8106||3||2||54||66.7%||0.8%||18.0||66.7%||66.7%||3.12|
|Chris Copier||TE||6'6, 250||Sr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7883||2||1||35||50.0%||0.5%||17.5||100.0%||50.0%||2.87|
|Landon Horne||TE||6'3, 240||Sr.||2 stars (5.2)||0.7444|
|Chad Artist||WR||6'3, 180||RSFr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.8008|
|Alex Byers||WR||6'2, 175||Jr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7959|
|Ron'Quavion Tarver||WR||6'3, 205||So.||2 stars (5.2)||0.8000|
|Craig Rucker||WR||5'8, 165||Fr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7893|
6. Who's catching the deep balls?
Last year's USU offense had a relatively QB-friendly approach -- the Aggies threw slightly more than the national average on standard downs and ran more than average on passing downs. And in Hunter Sharp and tight end Wyatt Houston, they also had a couple of strong efficiency weapons to deploy on first down.
Houston returns, but Sharp and Devonte Robinson, the top two targets at wide receiver, do not. And considering how much experience in the receiving corps seems to matter, that's a scary prospect.
Junior (and former star recruit) Braelon Roberts could step into a solid possession role; among semi-frequent targets, his 56 percent success rate was easily the best, even if he only averaged 8.8 yards per catch. But Sharp was USU's rock, and Robinson was the big-play guy. I'm not sure where the big plays come from now. A three-star youngster like sophomore Tyler Fox or redshirt freshman Chad Artist? A JUCO transfer like Alex Byers (who, like Sharp, comes from Antelope Valley JC) or Ron'Quavion Tarver?
Myers was at times quite effective at mixing in early-down bombs with the run game. Does he have a downfield threat this year?
|Rivals||247 Comp.||2015 Starts||Career Starts||Honors/Notes|
|Jake Simonich||RT||6'5, 300||Sr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7838||13||28|
|Austin Stephens||C||6'3, 305||Sr.||2 stars (5.2)||0.7800||13||27|
|Tyshon Mosley||LG||6'5, 305||Jr.||2 stars (5.2)||0.7847||9||20|
|Austin Albrecht||LT||6'5, 295||Sr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.7000||13||15|
|Preston Brooksby||LT||6'5, 285||Sr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7759||0||0|
|Jarom Ioane||C||6'6, 330||Jr.||NR||NR||0||0|
|KJ Uluave||RG||6'5, 280||So.||NR||NR||0||0|
|Cody Boyer||RT||6'6, 275||So.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7859||0||0|
|Brandon Taukeiaho||OL||6'3, 310||Jr.||2 stars (5.2)||0.7667||0||0|
|Andrew Chen||OL||6'3, 285||Jr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7606||0||0|
|Jude Hockel||OL||6'5, 285||Sr.||NR||0.7800||0||0|
|Sean Taylor||OL||6'5, 275||Jr.||NR||NR||0||0|
|Demytrick Ali'ifua||OL||6'3, 280||Fr.||2 stars (5.2)||NR|
|Villiamu McMoore||OL||6'5, 265||Fr.||2 stars (5.2)||0.7907|
|FIVE FACTORS -- DEFENSE|
|Raw Category||Rk||Opp. Adj. Category||Rk|
|EFFICIENCY||Succ. Rt.||36.4%||20||Succ. Rt. +||114.7||22|
|FIELD POSITION||Off. Avg. FP||32.5||17||Off. FP+||34.1||6|
|FINISHING DRIVES||Pts. Per Scoring Opportunity||5.1||120||Redzone S&P+||104.1||49|
|Q1 Rk||42||1st Down Rk||19|
|Q2 Rk||46||2nd Down Rk||17|
|Q3 Rk||41||3rd Down Rk||59|
7. A lot to replace
One day, Utah State was suddenly awesome at defense. After ranking 112th and 90th in Def. S&P+ in Andersen's first two seasons, the Aggies surged to 12th in 2012. And despite the loss of Andersen and stud coordinator Dave Aranda (now LSU's DC), they improved to a stunning fifth in 2013. They lost a ton of contributors but fell to only 32nd in 2014, and despite losing Todd Orlando, they improved to 26th in 2015.
It seems this team is destined to be stout on D no matter who's on the field or in the booth. But that theory will get tested in 2016. First, every coordinator changes offers the opportunity of a bad hire or bad move. And then there's the matter of the massive turnover in the front seven.
Wells elected to go the co-coordinator route on defense as well. He promoted cornerbacks coach and passing game coordinator Kendrick Shaver to co-coordinator, then brought Frank Maile back to Logan. Maile was USU's defensive line coach during the 2012-13 breakthrough and spent the last two seasons as Vanderbilt's defensive line coach.
The guys in charge know what it takes to play well at USU. But they'll still need the pieces to do it, and as with 2014, the Aggies face a lot of turnover on the two-deep. Gone are three of last year's top four linemen (including disruptive nose tackle David Moala) and all four primary linebackers. USU's starting LB foursome combined for 42.5 tackles for loss last year; that's a lot to replace, and three of the top six backups are also gone. Yikes.
|Rivals||247 Comp.||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|NG||6'2, 300||Sr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7000||14||24.0||3.0%||6.0||2.0||0||2||0||0|
|Ricky Ali'ifua||DE||6'2, 285||Sr.||2 stars (5.2)||0.7333||12||18.0||2.6%||4.0||3.0||0||0||1||0|
|Siua Taufa||DE||6'1, 280||Sr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7000||13||10.5||1.5%||1.5||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Edmund Faimalo||DE||6'2, 280||Sr.||2 stars (5.2)||0.7900||12||9.0||1.3%||0.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Ian Togiai||DE||6'3, 255||Jr.||2 stars (5.2)||0.8100||13||7.5||1.1%||0.5||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Gasetoto Schuster||NG||6'0, 280||So.||2 stars (5.3)||0.7885||10||3.5||0.5%||0.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Troy Murray||DE||6'5, 220||Fr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7793|
|Caden Andersen||NG||6'3, 280||Fr.||NR||NR|
|Rivals||247 Comp.||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Chasen Andersen||LB||5'11, 220||So.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7960||13||10.0||1.4%||0.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Brock Carmen||ILB||6'3, 230||Sr.||NR||NR||13||9.0||1.3%||0.0||0.0||1||0||0||0|
|Alex Huerta||OLB||6'2, 230||Jr.||NR||NR||12||3.5||0.5%||0.0||0.0||0||1||0||0|
|Anthony Williams||LB||6'2, 230||Sr.||NR||NR|
|Leki Uasike||LB||5'11, 230||Sr.||NR||NR|
|Europa Mataia||LB||6'0, 240||Sr.||NR||NR|
|Chase Christiansen||LB||6'1, 230||So.||2 stars (5.2)||0.7000|
|Joe Riggins||LB||6'2, 210||RSFr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8117|
|Mason Tobeck||LB||6'3, 225||RSFr.||2 stars||0.7633|
|Kevin Meitzenheimer||LB||6'1, 220||Fr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8315|
8. So much to replace
The return of nose guard Travis Seefeldt, who missed 2015 after a bad car accident, will alleviate the effects of the turnover up front. Between Seefeldt and fellow senior Ricky Ali'fua, the Aggies have at least a couple of semi-proven pieces. And senior end Siua Taufa made a couple of plays when given the opportunity.
The real concern here is behind the line. Utah State has had a disruptive linebacking corps for the entirety of this run, and last year's was particularly strong.
Of the 10 linebackers who made any contribution whatsoever, only three are back, and sophomore Chasen Andersen (Gary's son) is the only one who hit even 10 tackles. There are seniors who have been waiting their turn (Brock Carmen, Anthony Williams, Leki Uasike, Europa Mataia), along with some well-regarded youngsters (Joe Riggins, incoming three-star Kevin Meitzenheimer). Wells felt solid enough that he didn't sign JUCO replacements.
Still, last year's production was immense. There almost has to be a drop-off.
There is one saving grace. USU returns some strong field position components in kicker Jake Thompson, punter Aaron Dalton, and two strong return men (Kennedy Williams, Andrew Rodriguez). So opponents will likely have to drive a long way to score, at least.
|Rivals||247 Comp.||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Jalen Davis||CB||5'10, 175||Jr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.7000||13||41.5||6.0%||3||1||3||8||1||0|
|Devin Centers||FS||5'9, 200||Sr.||NR||NR||13||37.5||5.4%||0||0||3||2||0||0|
|Dallin Leavitt (BYU)||SS||5'11, 200||Sr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8121||11||37.0||4.7%||3.5||1.5||0||1||0||0|
|Jontrell Rocquemore||SS||6'1, 200||So.||2 stars (5.2)||0.7683||13||21.5||3.1%||2||0||0||1||1||1|
|Daniel Gray||CB||5'11, 180||Sr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8292||12||10.5||1.5%||0.5||0||0||1||0||0|
|Jentz Painter||CB||5'8, 175||Sr.||NR||NR||13||9.0||1.3%||0.5||0.5||1||1||0||0|
|Aaron Wade||SS||6'1, 200||So.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7593||13||3.0||0.4%||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Marquan Ellison||CB||5'11, 190||Sr.||2 stars (5.2)||0.7500|
|Wesley Bailey||CB||6'2, 190||Jr.||NR||0.8367|
|Cameron Haney||CB||5'11, 180||RSFr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8425|
|Antonio Cole||CB||6'1, 175||So.||2 stars (5.4)||NR|
|Makiah Gilmer||CB||6'1, 180||Fr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8115|
|Zach Swenson||S||6'1, 185||Fr.||2 stars (5.2)||NR|
9. Not quite as many worries in the back
If there's a saving grace, it's that the secondary is in decent shape. USU must replace two starters in wrecking ball Marwin Evans and corner Deshane Hines. But BYU transfer Dallin Leavitt should ease the loss of Evans, and a few others got decent experience: sophomore safeties Jontrell Rocquemore and Aaron Wade, senior corners Daniel Gray and Jentz Painter in particular, etc. JUCO Antonio Cole enters the mix and has earned rave reviews in spring ball.
Plus, the secondary isn't a blank slate. Corner Jalen Davis combined three tackles for loss with 11 passes defensed, and Devin Centers has 6.5 tackles for loss, three sacks, four picks, and 12 breakups over the last two years. If the front seven does its job (and that's a much bigger "if" than normal), the secondary should hold up.
|Aaron Dalton||6'4, 220||So.||72||41.3||3||29||26||76.4%|
|Jake Thompson||6'0, 215||Sr.||67||63.4||38||2||56.7%|
|Brock Warren||6'2, 180||Sr.||4||56.3||1||0||25.0%|
|Brock Warren||6'2, 180||Sr.||39-42||6-8||75.0%||2-3||66.7%|
|Jake Thompson||6'0, 215||Sr.||7-7||0-2||0.0%||3-4||75.0%|
|Kennedy Williams||KR||5'8, 160||Sr.||12||30.6||0|
|Andrew Rodriguez||PR||5'10, 185||Sr.||26||9.9||1|
|Special Teams S&P+||91|
|Field Goal Efficiency||109|
|Punt Return Success Rate||10|
|Kick Return Success Rate||75|
|Punt Success Rate||51|
|Kickoff Success Rate||43|
2016 Schedule & Projection Factors
|Date||Opponent||Proj. S&P+ Rk||Proj. Margin||Win Probability|
|1-Oct||at Boise State||36||-11.1||26%|
|8-Oct||at Colorado State||96||3.6||58%|
|29-Oct||San Diego State||55||0.2||51%|
|Projected wins: 6.6|
|Five-Year F/+ Rk||15.1% (38)|
|2- and 5-Year Recruiting Rk||104 / 107|
|2015 TO Margin / Adj. TO Margin*||-3 / -5.7|
|2015 TO Luck/Game||+1.0|
|Returning Production (Off. / Def.)||49% (57%, 41%)|
|2015 Second-order wins (difference)||6.8 (-0.8)|
10. The soft schedule will help
This might not be your typical Utah State. This could be the Aggies' best offense since 2012 and their worst defense since 2011.
Though the receiving corps is a concern, Myers is a potentially awesome quarterback with a nice running back and an experienced offensive line.
But while you don't get very far doubting the Utah State defense, it's hard not to be concerned about the front seven. The coaching will be sound, and there are plenty of seniors on the two-deep, but the disruption lost will be nearly impossible for new starters to replace.
USU is projected a conservative 73rd. That means a bowl isn't a guarantee (especially with road trips to USC, Boise State, BYU, and Colorado State), but with seven opponents projected 89th or worse and a win probability of at least 51 percent in nine games, the odds are solid.
So consider this a regrouping year. Figure out what Myers can do, expect him to raise the bar as a senior, arrange a new linebacking corps, and hopefully wreak havoc in 2017 after a fifth straight bowl appearance in 2016.