LOGAN – Answers come easily for Chuckie Keeton, as do ambiguities. Twenty-one career starts can cause that. You begin sounding like a leader, or better yet, the coach.
With a little politician on the side.
Go ahead and ask Keeton who is the best quarterback in the state this year. He won't take the bait, even though the Utah State signal-caller is on the Heisman watch list.
“I mean, it changes from year to year,” he says. “It’s never the same two years in a row. You have some players and you lose some, but it’s not really who has the best quarterback, but the best offense.”
Keeton fakes the pitch and turns up field.
“I think we have the best offense,” he continues. “Last year we had a really good offense. The guys around me were amazing, but at the same time, it’s a new team and a new offense around me. Hopefully we can regain what we had.”
Nicely played, discretion being the better part of valor.
But nearly 4,000 total offensive yards in a season don’t lie. It’s possible he won’t be the best QB at year’s end. Utah’s Travis Wilson is rangy and athletic and has Pac-12 starting experience. BYU’s Taysom Hill was progressing nicely last year until an injury derailed his rise.
In August it isn’t even a contest.
“I think,” USU coach Matt Wells warily responds, “he’s the best quarterback in the Cache Valley.”
Stop the presses.
Wells will admit having a quarterback with nearly two-dozen starts is a luxury. Not only does a veteran QB know the plays, he knows when to make them. That has often been a worry with the slender junior. Keeton took some unnecessary hits along the way. Sometimes, when he’s zigzagging into the secondary, it’s tempting to shout “Incoming!”
Opposing defensive backs relish a running launch.
So far he’s avoided major injury, though in 2011 he sustained a spinal stinger that effectively ended his season.
“That injury my freshman year in Hawaii was kind of a wakeup call. First, I was on a stretcher,” Keeton says. “Then [he saw] the medical bills. Those were two wakeup calls.”
But this year Keeton has fewer question marks than any quarterback in Utah. While Utah and BYU are hoping to build on the play of their still-young signal-callers – each replaced an injured starter last year – Keeton was the Aggies’ man from camp to Christmas.
Not only was he All-WAC, he was all-confidence. If that matters, he’ll someday be duplicating his idol, Seattle Seahawks’ quarterback Russell Wilson. Keeton’s 65.6 career completion percentage is better than any in school history, including NFL players Bob Gagliano, Eric Hipple and record-setting CFL quarterback Anthony Calvillo.
Last year he set school season records for touchdown passes, passing yards, total offense, completions, completion percentage and 9-car pileups averted.
He finished with 3,373 passing and 619 rushing yards, a combo quarterback if there ever was one. Need an extra yard on third down? Charles Keeton IV can get that. If you need to find the passing seam in the secondary, Keeton can do that, too. Leadership, at this point, is a foregone conclusion.
He might even have a recipe for killer chicken cacciatore.
“Throwing is my job,” he says. “Running is my hobby.”
Another hobby: Monopoly.
A confirmed video game fan, he and a roommate also got hooked on the board game this off-season, spending nearly six hours in some sessions.
“Whenever I thought of the college experience growing up,” he says, “Monopoly wasn’t part of it.”
When he first arrived in Logan, winning wasn't either. After back-to-back 4-8 seasons, the Aggies jumped to 7-6 with Keeton starting eight games as a freshman. Last year was their best-ever season: 11-2, including a bowl win.
Besides the Heisman, Keeton is on the Davey O’Brien watch list, the Maxwell watch list, the College Football Performance Awards watch list and – if there is one -- the Defensive Coordinators of America watch list.
Thus with fall camp starting on Friday, there is optimism in Logan, much due to Keeton. He calls the Heisman hype “surreal,” but adds: “I’ve got a team full of brothers in the locker room. They beat me down when I need it and pick me up when I need it.”
Neither coach nor politician could have said it better.
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