Utah State quarterbacks remain friends despite competition

Published: Tuesday, April 10 2012 11:28 p.m. MDT

Utah State quarterback Chuckie Keeton (16) in the Hawaii defensive tackle Zach Masch (9) in the first quarter of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Nov. 5, 2011, in Honolulu. (AP Photo/Eugene Tanner)

Associated Press

LOGAN — It's the day before one of Utah State's 6 a.m. spring football practices, but quarterbacks Chuckie Keeton and Adam Kennedy aren't worried about getting up before the sun rises just yet.

They will worry about their ongoing battle for the starting quarterback position that will run through spring practice and into the fall when they get to practice. Right now, their only concern is getting the best each other in a match of the Call of Duty video game, a favorite pastime for the two.

"I had a game this week that was untouchable," Keeton said when asked who was better at the game.

"Oddly enough, it's a little bit like our quarterback competition," Kennedy added. "There are good days and bad days for both of us. It's funny how that parallels what's going on the field."

Such is the life of one of the most unlikely friendships on campus.

Keeton came to the team as a highly touted high school product from Texas with an ability to make plays with his feet as well as his arm. Kennedy was a junior college transfer out of California with a big arm, a laid-back attitude off the field, and a gunslinger approach on it.

With differing backgrounds and an impending competition, neither assumed they'd wind up making a new, good friend.

"With all the time spent together watching film and in meetings, it just kind of developed," Kennedy said of the unexpected friendship. "I don't think either of us really intended it to be this way. It just kind of happened."

This spring the two will spend hours upon hours in the film room, in the weight room and at practice with the hope to get an edge and beat the other out for the starting job. Then they go home, check football at the door, and sit down and play video games and spend their time like any other pair of college friends on campus.

"We never really talk about football that much outside the football field," said Keeton. "We separate football from everything else. We are here so much, studying and working on extra film, sometimes it's hard to see a separation in the two, but we always find a way."

Without the friendship, things could have easily broken down between the two last year. Both played well enough in fall camp that they were expected to split time during the season-opener at Auburn. But Keeton led the Aggies to touchdowns on three of their first four drives against the Tigers and held on to the job for the rest of that game and first half of the season.

Then in the eighth game of the year, Keeton suffered a nasty spinal injury in Hawaii. Kennedy stepped right in and led Utah State to five straight wins and an appearance in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.

On a lot of teams, that series of events could have been a disaster. Kennedy could have been upset he didn't get his chance at the start the season and Keeton that he didn't get his job back when healthy.

"It's a very rare scenario. It's a great credit to those kids," said Utah State coach Gary Andersen. "I think the situation they got themselves into with Chuckie having a great fall camp and then Chuckie's injury and then Adam coming back in. I think all that has done is give themselves a greater respect for each other. They both know they can win Division I football games. That has made them closer."

There are countless examples of teams that have two good starting quarterbacks tearing the team apart with their competition. With this friendship, it's a blessing instead of a curse for Andersen and offensive coordinator Matt Wells because of the array of options it gives them.

The Aggies won't name a starter until fall camp at the earliest, but no matter who is picked, they have a proven commodity under center. The starter can play every snap of a game and know the other is behind them. Or the Aggies can utilize a two-quarterback system with plays tailored to each player's strengths, forcing opposing defenses to prepare for both.

"Off the field, we are really good friends, we hang out and everything," said Kennedy. "On the field, we support each other, but we both know it's a competition as well. There is no need to make it awkward. We each have to worry about improving ourselves, but in the end we are all Aggies."

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