While all the eyes on Utah State quarterback and Heisman hopeful Chuckie Keeton, it will be his receivers who will be catching the ball and racking up the yards.
The receiver situation for the Aggies is in flux. At the wideout position, USU graduated Travis Reynolds and Travis Van Leeuwen and their combined 1,493 yards and seven touchdowns from 2013. The Aggies also lost their two top tight ends in Keegan Andersen and D.J. Tialavea.
So who's going fill their shoes?
A trio of talented wideouts return for USU — although two of them ran into off-the-field trouble.
First up is junior Brandon Swindall (6-foot-4, 198 pounds), who led the Aggies with six touchdowns on just 29 catches. JoJo Natson (5-7, 151) and senior Ronald Butler (6-0, 185) combined for 741 yards and five touchdowns in 2013. Natson led the team with 59 receptions.
However, both Butler and Natson were arrested earlier this month. Butler is being charged with two misdemeanors, including driving under the influence. Meanwhile, Natson is accused of diverting school funds intended from a teammate to himself in February. Coach Matt Wells said the issues are being handled, but did not specify what the punishment will be.
The situation at tight end is similar in that the Aggies lose 47 receptions and eight career touchdowns from departing tight ends Andersen and Tialavea. However, USU will counter with both experience in senior Jefferson Court (6-3, 238) and talent in sophomore Wyatt Houston (6-5, 245). Court played in all but one of USU's games last season while Houston caught seven passes — two for TDs — in just seven games as a freshman.
Junior college transfers Hunter Sharp (6-0, 190) and Devonte Robinson (6-2, 184) join freshmen Braelon Roberts (6-3, 173), Hayden Weichers (6-0, 170) and Damoun Patterson (6-1, 180) are listed as the primary backups for the three wide receiver positions. If last season is a guide, these reserves should all get plenty of snaps.
At the tight end position, Snow College transfer Landon Horne (6-3, 230) led the Badgers in receptions (39), yards (406) and receiving touchdowns (5) last season and is listed with Houston and Court as the co-starter on the depth chart.
Senior wide receiver Shaan Johnson (6-1, 190) could be poised for a breakout season after playing in all 14 games in 2013. He scored just one touchdown, but his experience should be valuable should Natson or Butler miss any games.
On paper, the Aggies look like you'd expect a successful college football team to look like. After losing effective seniors, players with experience are ready to step in while the newcomers look poised to contribute. Projected starters Natson and Butler have question marks, but there are plenty of players ready to step up. At tight end, Wells will have three possible starters (a sophomore, a senior and a JC transfer) to chose from.
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