USU Aggie offense heads into the 2013 football season with confidence

By Doug Hoffman

For the Deseret News

Published: Wednesday, Aug. 21 2013 5:20 p.m. MDT

FILE -- In this Oct. 20, 2012 photo, Utah State quarterback Chuckie Keeton (16) celebrates with tight end D.J. Tialavea (91) after throwing a 76-yard touchdown pass. USU obtained new uniforms for all sports in 2012 and is in an evaluation process for the renewal of their apparel contract with Nike.

Eli Lucero, AP

Enlarge photo»

After playing in back-to-back bowl games for just the third time in school history, Utah State football enters a new era in 2013 as it will begin competition in the Mountain West Conference and do so under the direction of first-year head coach Matt Wells.

Despite the change in conference affiliation and change in leadership, Utah State appears to be on solid ground heading into the 2013 season as it returns 18 starters and 49 letterwinners from last year’s team that set school records for wins and home wins. USU also won its first outright conference championship since 1936 during the 2012 campaign and finished the year ranked 16th in the Associated Press Poll and 22nd in the Bowl Championship Series Standings.

Offensively, Utah State returns four players who earned various all-Western Athletic Conference honors a year ago including junior quarterback Chuckie Keeton, senior center Tyler Larsen and senior offensive tackle Eric Schutlz, who were all named to the first-team. In 2012, USU’s offense ranked among the top 30 nationally in five categories, while setting school records for total offense and total points.

Defensively, Utah State has six all-league players returning, including two first-team linebackers in senior Jake Doughty and sophomore Kyler Fackrell. In 2012, USU’s defense ranked among the top 15 nationally in five categories, including finishing seventh in scoring defense (15.4 ppg), 13th in rushing defense (113.8 ypg) and 14th in total defense (322.1 ypg).

Heading into 2013 and into the Mountain West, Utah State will carry plenty of momentum with it having won 16 of its last 19 games overall, including eight-straight at home and 11-straight in league play, which includes six straight on the road. USU also finished 2012 by winning each of its last seven games.

Quarterbacks

Utah State returns a two-year starter in Keeton. In his first two years at USU, Keeton has started 21 games and ranks first all-time in school history with a career completion percentage of 65.6 percent. Keeton also ranks seventh all-time at USU in total offense (5,485 yards), and ninth all-time in passing yards (4,573) and completions (381).

As a sophomore, Keeton earned first-team all-WAC honors after ranking 17th nationally in total offense (307.1 ypg), 18th in passing efficiency (154.7) and 29th in passing (259.5 ypg).

During the 2012 season, Keeton set single-season school records for touchdown passes (27), passing yards (3,373), total offense (3,992 yards), completions (275) and completion percentage (.676), while setting the single-game record for rushing yards by a quarterback with 121 yards at Louisiana Tech.

Along with earning first-team all-league honors as a sophomore, Keeton was also named the WAC’s Offensive Player of the Week four times during the course of the season as he had at least two touchdown passes in 10 games and rushed for a touchdown in eight games. He also threw for at least 300 yards three times in the last five games of the season and five times overall.

In all, Keeton concluded his sophomore season completing 275-of-407 passes for 3,373 yards with 27 touchdowns and nine interceptions. He also ran the ball 129 times for 619 yards with eight touchdowns.

Utah State also returns its backup at quarterback in junior Craig Harrison, who appeared in seven games in his first year at USU and finished the season completing 8-of-9 passes for 63 yards.

Running backs

For the second time in as many years, Utah State must replace a first-team all-league running back after the graduation of Kerwynn Williams who earned honorable mention All-American honors from SI.com after rushing for 1,512 yards on 218 carries (6.9 ypc) and 15 touchdowns. Williams also ranked second on the team with 45 receptions and 697 receiving yards (53.6 ypg), and tied for first on the team with five receiving touchdowns.

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