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USU football: Chuckie Keeton's back and ready to be Chuckie again

By Jeff Hunter

For the Deseret News

Published: Saturday, Aug. 23 2014 7:40 p.m. MDT

Updated: Sunday, Aug. 24 2014 8:46 a.m. MDT

Aggie's quarterback Chuckie Keeton high-fives kids during a football camp at Utah State University in Logan on Friday, June 13, 2014. Keeton, who was injured during last year's USU-BYU game, is healthy and ready for his senior season.

Laura Seitz, Deseret News

LOGAN — Chuckie Keeton looked good at Utah State’s final scrimmage of fall camp Tuesday night at Romney Stadium.

The senior quarterback was extremely active and agile and displayed a wide array of moves, using both his arms and his legs to deliver play after play. The only problem for the Aggie fans in the stands was that you could see Keeton’s face.

Not that Keeton is unpleasant to look at, mind you. It’s just that they would prefer to see the visage of USU’s reigning Big Man on Campus and the most talked about person in Cache Valley obscured by an Aggie helmet and a facemask.

Seeing Keeton on the sideline using signals to call in plays while wearing headphones and a blue Aggie cap just brings back too many memories of last spring when the superstar QB was still rehabbing from the ACL and MCL surgery on his left knee that ended his 2013 season after just six games.

But Keeton, who was long ago anointed the starting quarterback by USU head coach Matt Wells, said he didn’t mind sitting out on Tuesday as the Aggie coaching staff focused on evaluating many of his teammates whose roles have yet to be determined.

“If anything, it gives me great happiness because I get to wear this hat,” Keeton said. “A lot of people don’t, and I know I’m in a great position.

“And I try not to look back too much at what happened. Instead I try and look forward to all the positives that are about to happen, and I look forward to leading these guys into a lot of battles this upcoming season.”

While signaling plays, Keeton stood alongside freshman Damion Hobbs, a top prospect out of Texas who has to sit out this season after transferring from Oregon. Hobbs might well be the future of the Aggie quarterback position, but during Tuesday’s scrimmage he helped deliver plays to four other QBs who are playing behind Keeton this season.

Freshman DJ Nelson, the younger brother of former Aggie and Cougar Riley Nelson, took a few snaps during fall camp after returning from an LDS mission, while fellow freshman Kent Myers has looked awfully athletic coming off an impressive high school career in Texas.

But should Keeton go down again this season, his official backup is sophomore Darell Garretson. Make that Darell Garretson with an asterisk.

“He’s the next best quarterback in the program,” USU head coach Matt Wells said of Garretson. “And I owe it to this program, I owe it to this university and, most importantly, I owe it to the locker room that if Chuckie’s not available to play in a legit situation to play the next best available quarterback.”

It was Garretson, of course, who played a pivotal role in helping Utah State turn a potential lost season into a 9-5 campaign that included a trip to the first-ever Mountain West Conference Championship game. After Keeton was injured in the first quarter of the BYU game on Oct. 4, junior Craig Harrison came in to replace him and ended up completing 18 of 41 passes for 185 yards in USU’s 31-14 loss. Harrison was then given the difficult task of starting the next week at Boise State, where he ended up being pulled after going 7 for 17 for 105 yards.

Garretson, whom the Aggies were planning to redshirt in 2013, came in and provided enough of a spark (9-of-14 for 116 yards and one touchdown) to prompt Wells to start the freshman the following week at New Mexico. A 45-10 Utah State rout helped kickstart a 6-1 run down the stretch that ended with a 21-14 victory over No. 24 Northern Illinois in the Poinsettia Bowl.

During the Aggies’ second-half run, Garretson completed 60.3 percent of his passes and set the school record for passing yards by a freshman with 1,446. Those numbers and USU’s record with Garretson at the helm of the offense certainly make him the obvious option if Keeton goes down again this year.

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