#46 Utah State Football 2015 Preview

Utah State Aggies

Overall Rank: #46
#2 Mountain West

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Without their star quarterback, who was lost in the third game of the season, Utah State still managed to go 6-2 in conference play. Their only losses came at Colorado State and at Boise State. Both the Rams and Broncos come to Logan this year. Coach Matt Wells has done a great job building depth at this program and last year proved that even a major injury could not slow down the Aggies.  

2014 Record: 10-4, 6-2
2014 Bowl: Gildan New Mexico Bowl vs. UTEP (W 21-6)
Coach: Matt Wells (19-9 at Utah State, 19-9 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Luke Wells, Josh Heupel
Defensive Coordinator: Kevin Clune

Returning Leaders:
Rushing: LaJuan Hunt, RB, 540 yards
Passing: Kent Myers, QB, 866 yards
Receiving: Hunter Sharp, WR, 939 yards
Tackles: Nick Vigil, LB, 123
Sacks: Nick Vigil, LB, 7.0
Interceptions: Jalen Davis, CB, 2; Deshane Hines, CB, 2

Other Key Returnees: QB Chuckie Keeton, DE Jordan Nielsen, S Devin Centers, LB Dillon Filiaga

Key Losses: RB Joe Hill, WR JoJo Natson, QB Darell Garretson, WR Ronald Butler, OL Kevin Whimpey, DB Frankie Sutera, LB Zach Vigil, DL B.J. Larson, S Brian Suite, CB Rashard Stewart, K Nick Diaz

While the offense was struggling with injuries, the defense really stepped up last year. They ranked in the top 30 in the country in rush defense, total defense and scoring defense. The defense had injuries of their own and that is when the depth really started to show. Most of that depth is back. Nick Vigil and Kyler Fackrell are superb linebackers. Vigil tallied 123 tackles and 7.0 sacks in 2014, while Fackrell finally returns after a long injury. Surely Zach Vigil, Nick’s brother, will be missed, but this a very talented group of linebackers. The front three has some reloading to do, but Jordan Nielsen is a solid piece to build around. Like the front three, the secondary has a couple starters to replace, but they also have a lot of experienced options ready to step up. Jalen Davis, Devin Centers, Deshane Hines and Daniel Gray are ready to pick up the slack and then some. As good as this defense was in 2014, they have the potential to be even better in 2015.

Quarterback Chuckie Keeton returns after missing nearly all of last season. Three years ago he threw for 3,373 yards and 27 touchdowns. Two years ago an injury cut his season short as well, but in just over five games, he threw for 1,388 yards and 18 touchdowns with just two interceptions. Keeton is back to lead the offense and hopefully this time he can stay healthy. Even if he does not stay healthy and even with the transfer of part-time starter Darrell Garretson, the Aggies have options. Oregon transfer Damion Hobbs has the tools to be a solid quarterback in the Mountain West. And then there is Kent Myers, who was forced into action last year and played very well. He spent some time at wide receiver in the spring, but with Garretson transferring, Myers will be needed to compete with Hobbs for the backup job. With the return of Hunter Sharp, who led the team with 66 receptions for 939 yards and seven touchdowns, Keeton will have his favorite target. Devonte Robinson will be asked to pick up his production, especially with the dismissal of JoJo Natson. Once again the ground game will be by committee. LaJuan Hunt and Joe Hill combined for 1,047 yards. Behind a strong offensive line, an offense that ranked 11th in the Mountain West in total offense, should be among the best in the conference.

The Bottom Line:
This could be a big year for USU. All the pieces are in place for the Aggies to win a MW title. Home games against Colorado State and Boise State make it look even more possible. Those games are both early though, so Utah State will need to come out of the gate hot. Before CSU and Boise State, Utah State heads to Utah and Washington. And in-between the home games against Colorado State and Boise State, Utah State heads to Fresno to play last year’s West Division winner. That is a huge stretch of big games, but Utah State has the talent to win most of them, especially if they can stay healthy.

Projected Bowl: Las Vegas Bowl

2014 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 180.1 (49th in nation, 7th in conference)
Passing Offense: 198.7 (92, 8)
Total Offense: 378.8 (83, 11)
Scoring Offense: 26.9 (78, 6)
Rushing Defense: 130.7 (24, 1)
Pass Defense: 225.4 (57, 5)
Total Defense: 356.1 (30, 2)
Scoring Defense: 19.7 (12, 1)
Turnover Margin: 0.64 (20, 2)
Sacks: 3.57 (4, 1)
Sacks Allowed: 2.00 (56, 6)

Madness 2016 NFL Draft Rankings:
#79 Kyler Fackrell


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