2012 Utah State Preview - Offense

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Aug 8, 2012


CollegeFootballNews.com 2012 Preview - Utah State Aggie Offense


Utah State Aggies

Preview 2012 - Offense

- 2012 Utah State Preview | 2012 Utah State Offense
- 2012 Utah State Defense | 2012 Utah State Depth Chart


What You Need To Know: The offense exploded with the emergence of QB Chuckie Keeton and the play of fill-in Adam Kennedy leading the way to an efficient passing game and a terrific ground attack. However, Robert Turbin ran for 1,517 yards and 19 scores and Michael Smith added 870 yards and nine touchdowns. Both top backs are gone, putting the pressure on Kerwynn Williams to handle the workload. Keeton and Kennedy form a strong quarterback tandem, and Matt Austin is a nice No. 1 receiver, but the rest of the receiving rotation is iffy. Tyler Larsen might be the nation’s best center, but the line depth is paper thin and two new starters have no experience. Even so, the offense will run fine with well over 3,000 rushing yards.

Returning Leaders
Passing: Chuckie Keeton
106-174, 1,200 yds, 11 TD, 2 INT
Rushing: Kerwynn Williams
81 carries, 542 yds, 3 TD
Receiving: Matt Austin
34 catches, 465 yds, 6 TD

Star of the offense: Sophomore QB Chuckie Keeton
Player who has to step up and be a star: Sophomore OT Kevin Whimpey
Unsung star on the rise: Senior RB Kerwynn Williams
Best pro prospect: Junior C Tyler Larsen
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Larsen, 2) Keeton, 3) Williams
Strength of the offense: Running, Deep Passes
Weakness of the offense: Offensive Line Experience, No Robert Turbin or Michael Smith

Quarterbacks

Sophomore Chuckie Keeton came from out of nowhere to take a potentially iffy quarterback situation and made it a positive. He almost engineered a shocking win at Auburn to starter off the year, and while he wasn’t quite able to come up with victories in tight games early on, he was fantastic finishing the year completing 61% of his passes for 1,200 yards and 11 touchdowns with just two picks while running for 293 yards and four scores. With five touchdown passes against Wyoming and with three 200-yard games in his eight appearances, he proved he’s more than a runner. He’s a thin 6-2 and 198 pounds, and he got banged around as last season went on and didn’t end up starting over the final five games after suffering a scary neck injury/stinger, but he showed he’s a star and a talent to build around.

Senior Adam Kennedy was supposed to start the season after coming in from the JUCO ranks, but he had to step aside when Keeton took over early on. Once Keeton got hurt, Kennedy got his chance and he was terrific going 4-1 with the lone loss coming to Ohio game to finish off the year completing 69% of his passes for 972 yards and 11 scores with four picks. While he’s not Keeton as a runner, he ran for 239 yards and kept things moving. At 6-5 and 222 pounds he has good size and a much better deep arm than Keeton.

Watch Out For … a quarterback battle. It’s not a bad thing to have two quarterbacks who can play. Keeton was special in his true freshman season and showed the potential and talent to become the star of the franchise for the next few years, but Kennedy proved he could lead the team to wins.
Strength: Efficiency. No one’s going to confuse Utah State with the Green Bay Packers throwing the ball, and the passing game finished 97th in the nation averaging just 175 yards per game, but Keeton and Kennedy were terrific. As a team, USU completed 64% of its passes with 23 touchdown passes and just six picks.
Weakness: The No. 3 quarterback. It might not be a big deal for now, but it’ll be a concern for the near future with Kennedy done after this year and Keeton’s injury last year scary enough to be worrisome. True freshmen Daniel Wray and Jeff Manning are tall passers who need to show there’s a future.
Outlook: The situation is terrific with two quarterbacks who could start for anyone in the WAC. Keeton ran the offense like a seasoned pro as a true freshman, while Kennedy stepped in and came up with nice veteran leadership when needed. The passing yards won’t be there, but the Aggies will be efficient and should get nice production on the ground no matter which option is in.
Unit Rating: 7

Running Backs

With Robert Turbin and Michael Smith gone, the spotlight will be on Kerwynn Williams, a talented all-around playmaker who was moved around at times to receiver, running back, and kick returner finding a role averaging 22.7 yards per kickoff return, 542 rushing yards and three scores, and with seven catches for 63 yards. The 5-9, 193-pound senior was a complementary player who produced when he got his chances, averaging 6.7 yards per carry, and he should use his big-time speed and quickness to be the main rushing option.

Splitting time in the rotation to spell Williams will be junior Robert Marshall and Joe Hill, who each got a little bit of work last season. The 6-1, 231-pound Marshall ran just 13 times for 61 yards and a touchdown, mostly working in the blowout against Wyoming, but he has the size to provide more thump to the mix and be the power back the offense needs. He has enough quickness and speed to tear off big runs if he gets the chance. The 5-11, 186-pound sophomore Joe Hill ran for 25 yards with a touchdown, getting his time in blowouts, but now will be needed much more as a speedster on the outside. With good hands he could be a receiver and a third down specialist.

Watch Out For … Williams to come up with a huge season. The coaching staff looked for ways to get him the ball last season, but Turbin and Smith were way too good. He might not come up with 1,517 yards and 19 scores like Turbin, but he’ll hit the 1,000-yard mark if he can stay healthy.
Strength: Speed. Utah State running backs can always move, and that includes the 231-pound Marshall. Smith was warp-speed fast and was great in the open field, but Williams isn’t that far behind when it comes to wheels.
Weakness: Proven reserves. Marshall and Hill might turn out to be productive when they get more time, but there’s a huge, HUGE drop-off with Turbin taking off and Smith done. Williams is a good No. 1 option, but the offense needs to get production out of the backups right away.
Outlook: Helped by the quarterbacks the Utah State running game was dominant, finishing first in the WAC and sixth in the nation averaging 283 yards per game. The Aggies won’t be nearly as good this year, but Williams will have a big season and 3,000 yards as a rushing offense should be a lock.
Unit Rating: 5.5

Receivers

A one-time superstar JUCO transfer, senior Matt Austin stayed healthy, after missing most of 2010 with a knee injury, and stepped up his game to lead the team with 34 catches for 465 yards and six touchdowns, twice as many scores as the next best receiver. The 6-2, 200-pounder is a great fit for the offense. He’s not needed as a short to midrange target on a regular basis, but he can make more plays after catching 71 passes for 1,134 yards and 13 touchdowns for Mt. San Antonio JC. Steady, he was good for around three grabs per game with six catches against Auburn and two scores against New Mexico State.

Senior Chuck Jacobs stepped up in a starting role at the T position and finished third on the team with 20 catches for 218 yards and two scores, and was also used from time to time as a runner. At 6-0, 178 pounds he isn’t all that big, but he can move.

Junior Travis Reynolds is a smart, Academic All-WAC performer who’s going to step up and try to be another Stanley Morrison. The 6-0, 179-pounder only caught three passes for 23 yards but now will move at the Z. He’ll combine at the position with 6-1, 189-pound sophomore Shaan Johnson, a special athlete who was a high school track athlete in the high jump and long jump. Now he has to catch a pass, while 5-10, 199-pound junior Jordan Jenkins was a good JUCO transfer who caught 57 passes for 800 yards and three touchdowns for Coffeyville CC, but he didn’t get on the field last year. He has two seasons left to push for time at the Z.

The Aggies uses two tight ends in a variety of ways. 6-2, 250-pound senior Kellen Bartlett is a veteran who caught 15 passes and stretched the field two years ago, but he didn’t get on the field last year after suffering a broken leg. With an elbow injury knocking him out earlier in his career, he’s looking to finish up his career in one piece. While he can catch, he can also be used as a blocking H-back. Meanwhile, 6-4, 265-pound junior D.J. Tialavea is a promising receiver at the Y catching seven passes for 74 yards and a score. At 6-4 and 265 pounds he looks the type with good size and nice athleticism.

Watch Out For … the return of Bartlett. The receivers need to stretch the field, while the tight ends have to be used as steady midrange targets. Bartlett is a blocker, but he has good hands and could grow into a reliable outlet.
Strength: Deep plays. It’s a function of the offense that defenses load up to stop the run and leave the receivers open. The chances are there for the occasional home run against single coverage with the team averaging 12.2 yards per catch.
Weakness: A sure supporting cast around Austin. The Aggies have their No. 1 in Austin, and Jacobs is a decent option, but no one’s going to stay up late worrying about the complementary targets.
Outlook: Last year’s receiving corps was supposed to be strong with Stanley Morrison and Eric Moats joining forces with Austin, and the results were decent. The passing game was consistent, but it wasn’t anything truly special. The passes will be spread around, and the receivers will come up with the occasional big play, but consider it a stunner if the entire receiving corps – not counting the running backs – combine for 100 catches.
Unit Rating: 4.5

Offensive Line

If Tyler Larsen isn’t the best center in the WAC, he’s a close second. Worthy of being in the mix for All-America honors, the 6-4, 308-pound junior is a technician in the middle with a blasting style and enough quickness to make things happen on the move. A starter from his freshman season, he has next level potential both as a guard and as a center, but he’s a special college quarterback for the line. He destroyed the Auburn defensive interior in the opener, and he didn’t slow down.

6-5, 297-pound senior Eric Schultz is a mature veteran – he’ll be 25 in September – and has become an ultra-reliable starting guard. He’ll work at right guard after starting in all 13 games, but he’s big enough and good enough to work anywhere on the line.

Next to Schultz on the right side will once again be senior Oscar Molina-Sanchez, a 6-5, 297-pound veteran who started every game with the ability to work at either right or left tackle. Just okay in pass protection, the former defensive lineman has grown into the job and has been a terrific run blocker.

6-2, 298-pound junior Jamie Markosian didn’t see any time last year and is starting from scratch at left guard. He’s smart and versatile, able to be used as a center if needed, and now he’s ready to take over after waiting in the wings for a few years. Also ready to step in is sophomore Kevin Whimpey, a transfer from Idaho State who’ll takeover at left tackle. At 6-5 and 287 pounds he’s tall and has a great frame, and he has a little bit of playing time under his belt starting at the lower level before going on an LDS Church Mission. A terrific athlete for his size, he should be a good fit.

At 6-8 and 307 pounds, sophomore Bryce Walker is a huge tackle prospect with a big frame and tremendous upside, however, the right guard is looking to get back healthy after suffering a knee injury that cost him all of last season. At 6-6 and 304 pounds, junior Kyle Whimpey, Kevin’s brother, is a big option at left guard in the rotation with Markosian.

On the way is Patrick Ward, a 6-4, 270-pound JUCO transfer from Glendale CC who was a star at the lower level over the last two season. An athletic blocker, he’s a perfect fit at left tackle but can be moved around where needed.

Watch Out For … the left side. The right side should be set, but it’ll be an open casting call on the left side with Kevin Whimpey and Markosian penciled in, but having to fight for their jobs. There will be battles for time.
Strength: Larsen. The run blocking is terrific and the Aggie linemen know what they’re supposed to do. They’re great at zone blocking to get the backs in space, but it’s Larsen who directs the traffic. He’s a blaster who’s the key to the entire offense.
Weakness: Experience. The left side is starting from scratch as far as FBS experience, and there’s no established depth whatsoever. There will be big, BIG problems if injuries hit early on.
Outlook: The Aggie front five will do what it’s supposed to. The overall talent level might not be special, but it doesn’t have to be in the Utah State system. The holes will be there for the backs, and the pass protection will be decent, but not elite.
Unit Rating: 5

- 2012 Utah State Preview | 2012 Utah State Offense
- 2012 Utah State Defense | 2012 Utah State Depth Chart