Utah State football had eight players named to Athlon Sports 2014 Preseason all-Mountain West teams, it was announced Tuesday. Three offensive players, four defensive players and one specialist were recognized for the Aggies.
Boise State had the most preseason selections with 11, while Colorado State had 10, and Utah State and Fresno State each had eight. Wyoming had seven preseason selections, followed by Nevada (6), San Diego State (6), UNLV (6), San Jose State (5), Hawai’i (4), New Mexico (4) and Air Force (3).
Senior quarterback Chuckie Keeton, senior linebacker Zach Vigil and junior linebacker Kyler Fackrell were named to the preseason all-Mountain West first team. Senior defensive end B.J. Larsen, senior safety Brian Suite, senior offensive tackle Kevin Whimpey and junior punt returner JoJo Natson were named to the second team, while senior running back Joe Hill was selected to Athlon Sports preseason all-Mountain West third team.
Keeton, a 6-foot-2, 200-pound quarterback from Houston, Texas (Cypress Creek HS), was one of 30 players named to the first edition of the 2013 Heismanpundit/CBSSports.com Heisman Trophy Watch List as a junior a year ago, but he played in just six games before suffering a season-ending knee injury in the first quarter against BYU on Oct. 4. Prior to his injury, Keeton had completed 136-of-196 passes for 1,388 yards (231.3 ypg) with 18 touchdowns and just two interceptions, while rushing for another 241 yards on 55 carries (402 ypg/4.4 ypc) with two more scores. Overall, that completion percentage of 69.4 percent broke his own single-season school record set in 2012, while his 18 touchdown passes rank tied for ninth all-time in school history.
Through his first five games of the 2013 season, Keeton ranked second in the nation with 17 touchdown passes, while also ranking first in the Mountain West and second in the nation in points responsible for (22.8 pg), second in the MW and 22nd in the nation in passing efficiency (161.6), third in the MW and eighth in the nation in completions (26.4), third in the MW and 11th in the nation in completion percentage (.710), third in the MW and 18th in the nation in total offense (317.2 ypg), and fourth in the MW and 25th in the nation in passing (272.4 ypg). Keeton also tied the school record with five touchdown passes in a game twice during his junior year, doing so in a 52-20 win at Air Force and again in a 70-6 home win against Weber State.
As a sophomore in 2012, Keeton earned first-team all-Western Athletic Conference 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), completions (275), completion percentage (.676) and total offense (3,992 yards), while tying the single-game record for rushing yards by a quarterback with 121 yards at Louisiana Tech.
Entering his senior season, Keeton is one of 25 college football players named to the first edition of the 2014 Heismanpundit/CBSSports.com Heisman Trophy Watch List, one of 17 players named to the 2014 Bleacher Report's Initial Heisman Trophy Watch List and a first team preseason all-Mountain West selection by Phil Steele.
Vigil, a 6-2, 232-pounder from Clearfield, Utah (Clearfield HS), earned second team all-Mountain West honors a year ago as he ranked second on the team, seventh in the conference and 42nd in the nation with 8.9 tackles per game. Overall, he finished the year with 124 total tackles (47-solo, 77-assist), which was tied for the 17th most in the nation at the FBS level. In all, his 47 solo tackles led the team, while he was also tied for the team lead with two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. He also ranked second on the team with 12.5 tackles for loss and was tied for fifth overall with 2.0 sacks, while adding one interception, one pass breakup and one quarterback hurry.
Vigil is also a preseason first team all-Mountain West selection by Phil Steele heading into the 2014 season.
Fackrell, a 6-5, 245-pounder from Mesa, Arizona (Mesa HS), was named an honorable mention Sophomore All-American by College Football News and earned second team all-Mountain West honors a year ago as he finished the season ranking first on the team with 13.0 tackles for loss, tied for first with two forced fumbles and second with his 5.0 sacks, while ranking fourth on the team with 82 total tackles (37-solo, 45-assist). Overall, he averaged 5.9 tackles per game to rank 35th in the Mountain West. During the season, he recorded three quarterback hurries, recovered one fumble, intercepted one pass and registered one pass breakup. He was named the Mountain West's Defensive Player of the Week and College Football Performance Awards National Linebacker of the Week following USU's 47-10 home win against Hawai'i as he recorded nine tackles, including 0.5 for loss, to go along with an interception return of 99 yards for his first career defensive touchdown.
Fackrell is also a preseason first team all-Mountain West selection by Phil Steele heading into the 2014 season.
Larsen, a 6-5, 275-pounder from Logan, Utah (Logan HS), earned second team all-Mountain West honors as a junior as he finished the season ranking second on the team with 4.0 sacks and three quarterback hurries, to go along with 8.0 tackles for loss and 31 total tackles (14-solo, 17-assist). He was also named a College Football Performance Awards Honorable Mention National Defensive Lineman of the Week following his performance against No. 24 Fresno State in the inaugural Mountain West Championship game as he had a career high 2.0 tackles for loss, to go along with 1.0 sack, as part of his five total tackles.
Larsen is also a preseason second team all-Mountain West selection by Phil Steele heading into the 2014 season.
Suite, a 6-3, 205-pounder from Honolulu, Hawaii (Punahou HS), earned honorable mention all-Mountain West honors as a junior as he ranked fourth on the team with 77 total tackles (37-solo, 40-assist) and had six or more tackles in eight games. He finished the season ranking first on the team, fifth in the Mountain West and 41st in the nation with five total interceptions (0.36 ipg), tied for first on the team in fumbles recovered with two and tied for fourth on the team with six pass breakups.
Suite was also named to the SI.com and the CBS Sports.com All-Bowl Teams following Utah State's 21-14 win against No. 24 Northern Illinois in the 2013 San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl as he tied his season high with 11 tackles, to go along with a fumble recovery and interception.
Suite is also a preseason first team all-Mountain West selection by Phil Steele heading into the 2014 season.
Whimpey, a 6-5, 295-pounder from Highland, Utah (Lone Peak HS/Idaho State), started all 14 games at left tackle as a junior and finished the season with an overall performance grade of 83 percent. In all, he graded out at 88 percent in effort, including seven games over 90 percent, while also grading out at 87 percent in assignment, including six games over 90 percent, and 80 percent in technique, including seven games above 80 percent. He finished the season with 35.0 knockdowns, including a season high eight against BYU.
Whimpey is also a preseason first team all-Mountain West selection by Phil Steele heading into the 2014 season.
Natson, a 5-7, 151-pounder from Fort Lauderdale, Florida (Boyd Anderson HS), earned honorable mention all-Mountain West honors as a punt returner as a sophomore as he ranked fourth in the conference and 22nd in the nation with his punt return average of 11.3 yards. He returned 31 punts for 351 yards during the season. He also ranked first in the Mountain West and second in the nation with two punt returns for touchdown, and he was the only player in the country with multiple touchdowns rushing (3), receiving (2) and returning (2) in 2013. He was also named the Mountain West Special Teams Player of the Week and the College Football Performance Awards National Punt Returner of the Week following USU's 45-10 win at New Mexico as he returned a career high five punts for a career best 102 yards, including his first career punt return for touchdown of 65 yards.
Natson is also a preseason second team all-Mountain West selection by Phil Steele heading into the 2014 season.
Hill, a 5-11, 190-pounder from Fullerton, California (Fullerton HS), started the first five games of the 2013 season before missing the remainder of the year with a knee injury. As a junior, he carried the ball 53 times for 252 yards (4.8 ypc) and scored his lone rushing touchdown of the year on a 1-yard run at Air Force. He also caught 13 passes for 94 yards (7.2 ypr) during the season with a 20-yard touchdown reception against the Falcons. He also had a career best 18 carries for 75 yards in USU’s season opener at Utah and had a career high seven receptions for 39 yards against the Utes.
Utah State returns 14 starters as part of 40 letterwinners from last year's 9-5 team that won the Mountain Division of the Mountain West Conference, played in the inaugural Mountain West Championship game and defeated No. 24 Northern Illinois, 21-14, in the 2013 San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl.
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Doug Hoffman is the assistant athletic director for Utah State University Athletic Media Relations.