College Football Preview: The 2014 Utah State Aggies
A healthy Chuckie Keeton looks to lead Utah State to the MWC title.
2014 College Football Preview
Can the return of Chuckie Keeton be enough to lead Utah State to the top of the Mountain West?
Overview: Despite losing star quarterback Chuckie Keeton six games in against Brigham Young the Aggies won five in a row to close the regular season before losing to Fresno State in the conference title game. A Bowl win over Northern Illinois concluded a highly successful 2013 despite losing Keeton. With their best player back in 2014 USU has their sights on a national ranking and the MWC championship.
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Offense: Before getting hurt Keeton was phenominal with 1,388 passing yards with 18 TD's and two picks while completing 69% of his throws. Freshman Darell Garretson did well under tough circumstances with 1,436 yards with ten scores and seven interceptions on 60% completions. Keeton also ran for 285 yards with a little over six yards per try so the differences were obvious. The receiving corps loses Travis Van Leeuwen and Travis Reynolds who combined for 103 catches and 1,493 yards so JoJo Natson (58-385) and Brandon Swindall (29-285) and Ronald Butler (24-346) will be thrust in to the limelight. Joey DeMartino took 1,221 rushing yards to graduation leaving Joe Hill (53-252) as the top man but he also was hurt halfway through 2013. The biggest concern is the O-Line that returns LT Kevin Whimpey and virtually no other experience.
Defense: The Aggies had one of the best defenses in the game a year ago but lose the top two along the defensive front but return sack leader BJ Larsen and four others that saw action in at least 12 games. The linebacking unit lost top tackler Jake Doughty but the next three did not miss a game last season and are rock solid although depth is an unknown. There could be trouble on the horizon in the secondary with only one starter and two backs up returning. CB Daniel Gray had starter experience at Tennessee two years ago and fellow three star CB Ladale Jackson are two guys that could step in and perform at a high level.
Special Teams: Punter Jaron Bentrude averaged less then 40 yards per punt but the opposition didn't return many while Nick Diaz was 17-23 on field goals. Natson averaged over eleven yards on 31 punt returns with a pair of touchdowns but the Aggies need a kick returner and I'd give Natson a look.
Outlook: Matt Wells has obvious talent offensively if he can get a cohesive effort from the guys up front. The secondary is a worry on defense but if the team stays relatively healthy and a few holes are filled, Utah State will be a contender in the MWC once again.