#41 Utah State Football 2014 Preview

Utah State Aggies

Overall Rank: #41
#2 MWC

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After head coach Gary Anderson left for the coaching job at Wisconsin, Utah State turned to one of their own in Matt Wells. A Utah State alum, Wells led Utah State to the MWC Conference Championship game in their first season in the conference, where they lost a hard fought battle with Fresno State. Wells is back for his second season and will look to build on his initial success. The Aggies lose some key players, but with a number of big time playmakers back, the Aggies could find themselves in a similar situation this season.

2013 Record: (9-5, 7-1)
2013 Bowl: Poinsettia Bowl vs. Northern Illinois (W 21-14)
Coach: Matt Wells (9-5 at Utah State, 9-5 Overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Kevin McGiven/Luke Wells
Defensive Coordinator: Todd Orlando

Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Joe Hill, RB, 252 yards
Passing: Darell Garretson, QB, 1,446 yards
Receiving: Bruce Natson, WR, 395 yards
Tackles: Zach Vigil, LB, 124
Sacks: Nick Vigil, LB, 5.5
Interceptions: Brian Suite, S, 5

Other Key Returnees: QB Chuckie Keeton, WR Brandon Swindall, WR Ronald Butler, OL Kevin Whimpey, DE B.J. Larson, LB Kyler Fackrell, P Jaron Bentrude, K Nick Diaz, K Jake Thompson

Key Losses: RB Joey DeMartino, WR Travis Reynolds, WR Travis Van Leeuwen, C Tyler Larson, G Jamie Markosian, T Eric Schultz, TE Keegan Anderson, TE D.J. Tialavea, LB Jake Doughty, S Maurice Alexander, CB Nevin Lawson, CB Quinton Byrd, CB Tay Glover-Wright, NG Adam Pataiali’i, DE Paul Piukala

Chuckie Keeton had Utah State off to a 3-2 start last season with both losses by a combined seven points to USC and Utah, but Keeton saw his season come to an end in the sixth game after he suffered a knee injury. Keeton was having a remarkable season up until that point. The senior signal caller had thrown for 1,388 yards, 18 touchdowns and just two interceptions and was completing nearly 70 percent of his passes. He will look to erase the thought of last season’s misfortune by putting up big numbers as a senior. Utah State has a security blanket at the position, as they return sophomore Darell Garretson, who threw for 1,446 yards and 10 touchdowns in Keeton’s place last year. Utah State loses its top two receivers yardage wise, but the team’s spread attack has three more ready to step up. Junior Bruce Natson led the team with 59 catches last year to go along with 395 yards and three touchdowns, while junior Brandon Swindall caught a team-high six touchdowns. Joining them will be senior Ronald Butler, who caught 24 passes for 346 yards, averaging 14.4 yards per catch. Senior Joe Hill will add another play making dimension to the offense. Hill, like Keeton, missed a large portion of the season with a knee injury. He ran for 252 yards in five games before the injury last season and should see an increased workload this year. Defensively, the Aggies return three of their top four linebackers, and that should be the strength. Leading tackler Jared Doughty is gone, but Zach Vigil, 124 tackles and 12.5 tackles for a loss, Kyler Fackrell, 82 tackles and 13 tackles for a loss, and Nick Vigil, 57 tackles and 5.5 sacks, are all back. They should be counted on heavily, as should the entire special teams unit. Punter Jaron Bentrude is back and so are kickers Nick Diaz, 17-23 on field goals, and Jake Thompson, 86 kickoffs and a 63.5-yard average.

Outside of the linebackers, Utah State returns just two starters defensively. Senior DE B.J. Larsen will anchor the defensive line after making eight tackles for a loss and four sacks last season, while free safety Brian Suite is back in the defensive backfield after picking off five passes to go along with 77 tackles. Utah State will look for players to step up in both positions. On the defensive line, Jordan Nielson is back for his junior season. He earned Second Team All-WAC honors in 2012 before seeing his playing time decrease last season. A pair of three-year letter winners will look to join with Suite in the secondary. Safety Frankie Sutura and cornerback Rashard Stewart have played in 37 and 36 game respectively in their Aggie careers and both should slide into starting slots this season. Offensive line and tight end are the other concerns for Utah State, as three all-conference performers depart. Tackle Kevin Whimpey is the only starter back, but Joe Summers, Bryce Walker, Bill Vavau, Taani Fisilau and Jake Simonich all return with experience. At tight end, Wyatt Houston started three games as a freshman and caught seven passes for 118 yards and two touchdowns. He should be the first option when the Aggies look to fill the vacant position.

The Bottom Line:
It’s going to be the Chuckie Keeton show for Utah State this season. With big losses in a number of positions, the success of Utah State’s football team largely relies on Keeton’s arm and legs. As a sophomore in 2012, Keeton threw for 3,373 yards and added another 619 on the ground. The dual threat quarterback added 241 in just over five games last season, which is just 11 yards short of being the teams leading returning rusher. If his knee is healthy this season, which all signs point to, Keeton looks set to have a monster senior season, and if he does, the Aggies could have a lot of success.

Projected Bowl: Poinsettia Bowl

2013 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 178.1 (53rd in Nation, 7th in conference)
Passing Offense: 233.4 (64, 10)
Total Offense: 411.5 (59, 10)
Scoring Offense: 31.8 (50, 6)
Rushing Defense: 106.7 (8, 1)
Pass Defense: 224.1 (52, 2)
Total Defense: 330.9 (12, 1)
Scoring Defense: 17.1 (7, 1)
Turnover Margin: 0.70 (19, 1)
Sacks: 2.43 (35, 2)
Sacks Allowed: 2.36 (88, 11)

Madness 2015 NFL Draft Rankings:
#96 Kyler Fackrell


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