2013 Utah State Preview - Offense
CollegeFootballNews.com 2013 Preview - Utah State Aggie Offense
Preview 2013 - Offense
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What You Need To Know: Offensive coordinator Kevin McGiven isn't going to change things up too much, and why would he? The Aggies were terrific throughout last season with a nasty running game and one of the nation's most efficient passing attacks. It all starts up front with a strong line that gets back all five starters including All-America candidate Tyler Larsen at center. Quarterback Chuckie Keeton will be in the hunt for Mountain West Player of the Year honors with pinpoint passing ability and good rushing skills, but he's going to have to be even better with a shaky receiving corps to work with and the loss of speedy running back Kerwynn Williams. There's potential with Joe Hill and the rest of the backs, but the short-to-midrange passing attack will carry the offense.
Star of the offense: Junior QB Chuckie Keeton
Passing: Chuckie Keeton
275-407, 3,373 yds, 27 TD, 9 INT
Rushing: Chuckie Keeton
129 carries, 619 yds, 8 TD
Receiving: Travis Reynolds
25 catches, 244 yds, 1 TD
Player who has to step up and be a star: Senior WR Travis Reynolds
Unsung star on the rise: Junior RB Joe Hill
Best pro prospect: Senior C Tyler Larsen
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Larsen, 2) Keeton, 3) OT Eric Schultz
Strength of the offense: Offensive Line, Keeton
Weakness of the offense: Receiver, Proven Running Backs
Junior Chuckie Keeton returns after a brilliant All-WAC season completing 68% of his passes for 3,373 yards and 27 touchdowns with nine picks, while finishing second on the team with 619 rushing yards with eight scores. The 6-2, 200-pounder started out his career as a nice all-around playmaker, almost leading the way to an upset win over Auburn in 2011, but he has turned into a stronger passer and great decision-maker who spreads the ball around well and doesn't make any big mistakes. While he can be a runner as a part of the gameplan, he's at his best when he gets a chance to take off when the play breaks down. Staying healthy is a must after missing the second half of his freshman season with a scary neck injury/stinger, but he was able to stay on the field last year and showed just what a special talent he is.
Backup Craig Harrison didn't get in too much work, but he was decent in garbage time hitting 8-of-9 passes for 63 yards. The 6-2, 208-pound junior is a decent passer, but he'll have to hold off 6-4, 200-pound redshirt freshman Jeff Manning and new recruit Jordan Brown. Brown is almost certain to be redshirted, but the tall Manning is a good-looking passer who could push hard for the No. 2 job.
Watch Out For … the battle for the backup job. Keeton is the signature star and isn't going to be pushed at all, but it's going to be a fight for the second spot. Manning has the talent, but Harrison has the experience spending last year as the reliable reserve.
Strength: Keeton's efficiency. He doesn't make mistakes and he's great at pushing the ball down the field when needed. He's a smart, effective passer who can do it all.
Weakness: Backup experience. Keeton is a runner and isn't all that big – he can't hold up if he's getting popped on a regular basis. The drop-off to the backups is massive.
Outlook: Keeton is the type of transcendent player who can keep a team like Utah State in any game. He'll win a few games by being the best player on the field, but the more work the reserves can get, the better.
Unit Rating: 7.5
Kerwynn Williams is gone after coming up with 1,512 yards and 15 scores, but junior Joe Hill has the ability and potential to be the next man in to lead the way with a 1,000-yard season. The 5-11, 185-poudner ran just 43 times but he averaged 6.3 yards per carry and scored seven times including a touchdown in each of the last two games. Dangerous with the ball in his hands, he caught ten passes for 183 yards and a touchdown with tremendous quickness and cutting ability in the open field.
The Aggies don't rotate backs all that often, but there's a good chance that sophomore Kelvin Lee and senior Joey DeMartino gets a shot at plenty of carries. The 5-10, 183-pound Lee was fourth on the team with 130 yards, but with his quickness and speed – he fits the mold – he can become a third down specialist. The 5-11, 210-pound DeMartino hasn't done much of anything in a few years – rushing for 157 yards in 2010 – but he can bring more thump to the equation.
Watch Out For … senior Robert Marshall. The 6-1, 231-pounder is a banger who adds a different element to the offense. He only ran for 74 yards before injuring his knee in the middle of the season, but he's expected to be back before the start of the year.
Strength: Speed and quickness. Utah State always finds a way to get guys who can fly, and while there's not a Williams who can take off and fly through a crease, Hill can move and Lee is a speedster.
Weakness: Proven big-time production. Hill looks like a keeper who should shine with more work, but it's very, very iffy behind him. The Aggies could rotate backs more than normal.
Outlook: Helped by the quarterbacks the running game always produces big numbers with 30 scores and a 5.6-yard average. The Aggies always get big plays from its offensive style and always busts out yards in chunks. The running game will continue to be effective, even if the overall talent level is dropping off.
Unit Rating: 5.5
And here's the problem. The two top receivers, Matt Austin and Chuck Jacobs, are gone, and now it's going to be an open casting call for the jobs. Senior Travis Reynolds is the main returning option after catching 25 passes for 244 yards and a score as a short-range target, but he'll need to do more at the Z as Chuckie Keeton's likely No. 1 option. At 5-11 and 180 pounds, he's not all that big, but he's able to get open and should grow into the bigger role.
The chances will be there for others to step up and become big factors right away. Senior Travis Van Leeuwen only caught 12 passes for 143 yards and a score, but at 6-3 and 195 pounds he has size to go along with decent deep speed at the outside X. 5-7, 151-pound sophomore Bruce Natson caught 17 passes for 132 yards and a score as a true freshman, and while he didn't have a big play, he has the speed and quickness to be dangerous in the open field. Former JUCO transfer Jordan Jenkins will push for time at all three spots despite not doing anything yet, while 6-4, 194-pound sophomore Brandon Swindall has excellent size and a little bit of experience.
The tight end situation is also a problem after losing Kellen Bartlett. However, while Bartlett was a great receiver, senior D.J. Tialavea is a devastating blocker with 6-4, 266-pound size and good enough athleticism to be used more as a receiver after catching six passes for 31 yards and a score. 6-2, 231-pound junior Keegan Andersen has good hands and enough experience to be used as a quick blocker to get the ground game going.
Watch Out For … Wyatt Houston. Arguably the team's top recruit, the 6-5, 245-pounder has a ready-to-go body and frame with the potential to be devastating once he figures out what he's doing at tight end. A high school quarterback, he's a terrific athlete who can also run.
Strength: Chuckie Keeton. The Aggies might have the Mountain West's best quarterback, and he should be able to take most of the heat off as a runner while spreading the ball around to make everyone better. He'll need to because …
Weakness: Production. Matt Austin and Chuck Jacobs carried the passing game, and Bartlett was a key part of the passing game, too.
Outlook: This is going to be a problem. The passing game should shine because of Keeton, but are there the playmakers like the Aggie passing game had to work with like last year? Some underutilized veterans need to quickly adjust and become consistent producers.
Unit Rating: 4.5
The offensive front was one of the biggest reasons for all of the success last year, doing a phenomenal job in pass protection and pounding away for the ground game. The leader over the last few years is one of the nation's best centers, Tyler Larsen, a technician who has grown into his frame getting up to an NFL-sized 6-4 and 312 pounds with next level potential as both a guard and a center. A special quarterback for the line, he's great at walling off his man blasting away when needed. A smart veteran, he has been the main man up front over the last three years and should be in for a dominant final season.
While Larsen is the leader up front, 6-4, 308-pound senior right tackle Eric Schultz has almost as much experience. An all-star performer as a guard, he's a solid all-around blocker on the outside with good versatility and maturity – he'll be 26 in September. Next to him will be 6-6, 307-pound right guard Kyle Whimpey, a 13-game starter in the interior with the ability to work on either side. His twin brother Kevin Whimpey was a transfer from Idaho State who was asked to start right away at left tackle, and after one game he took over and turned into a consistently solid pass protector. Also back is 6-2, 302-pound left guard Jamie Markosian, a 13-game starter who's smart, versatile, and able to move to the middle at center if something happens to Larsen.
Watch Out For … the backups getting more work. 6-2, 331-pound senior Sini Tauave'a is a good veteran reserve for either guard spot, while junior Bryce Walker is a big 6-8, 310-pound guard who could move outside to tackle with his huge frame and the potential to do more now that he's fully back from a knee injury.
Strength: Experience. This is one of the nation's most experienced lines with all five starters returning and everyone starting every game with the exception of Kevin Whimpey, who didn't get the call in the opener.
Weakness: The reserves. It's a good problem to have. The starting five is so good and so cohesive that the backups didn't get much of a chance to show what they could do. It could be a problem if injuries strike.
Outlook: The overall talent level might not be special, but this was one of the most productive and effective lines in the nation last year, and everyone is back. Larsen is a special center and Schultz is a good one on the right side.
Unit Rating: 8
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Utah State Offense
2013 Utah State Defense |
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