Life without quarterback Chuckie Keeton starts this week for Utah State football. Who will replace Keeton under center, however, remains a mystery. Craig Harrison replaced Keeton on Friday night but will battle Darrell Garretson for the gig this week. Head coach Matt Wells won’t name a starter until they line up against Boise State on Saturday night.
“We'll split the reps 50/50 today and then see where we're at,” Wells said. “I'm going to work it in closed practices the rest of the week and you'll know who the starter is on Saturday night.”
The original plan for the Aggies was to redshirt Garretson and groom him to take the mantle after Keeton graduated, but the injury has moved up his timeline. Garretson has not taken many reps in practice since the end of fall camp, while Harrison was only getting around 30 percent of the snaps before Keeton’s injury. Getting more practice and working with a playbook tailored to their strengths should help ease them into a starting role.
“We'll see where those guys are, we'll see who plays well around them and how they handle the situation this week,” Wells said.
WALKING WOUNDED — Keeton isn’t the only injury concern for Wells. Starting running back Joe Hill is also out for the season. The speedster had surgery on a torn ACL last Friday. Along with the loss of offensive guard Kyle Whimpey, that makes three offensive starters that have been lost for the season at the halfway point for the Aggies.
“Three starters, especially at quarterback, tailback and an O-lineman, that's a unique one,” Wells said of the injuries. “I think our team will rally just fine. I think we have a bunch of tough-minded kids. I think they're individually motivated.”
As for the guys on the sidelines, Wells isn’t worried much about them coming back better than ever next season.
“I told Joe (Hill) the other day that I feel sorry for him because the wrong guy just got hurt right next to him,” Wells said in reference to Keeton. “He's going to drill Joe. The kid won't give up and they'll come back stronger. I'm sure there's going to be a silver lining in it somewhere, there's not today. There's a silver lining in it for him mentally probably. He'll see the game from a different perspective. Hopefully all that helps him next year.”
COMING BACK — On the positive side, the Aggies did get back defensive lineman Connor Williams against BYU. Williams assisted on six tackles after missing the Aggies' previous four games. Having Williams back will be a key for Utah State as the defense looks to up the intensity to help out the wounded offense.
“Obviously, when you have key players go down, the rest of the team has got to pick up the slack. Defensively, offensively and on special teams, we’re going to have to be more sound,” Williams said. “I don’t doubt our crew; I think we’ll be able to pull it off.”
Kraig Williams is a 2010 Utah State University graduate and regular Deseret News sports blogger. He can be followed on Twitter @DesNewsKraig.
Copyright 2016, Deseret News Publishing Company