2014 Utah St Preview: What You Need To Know
Utah State WR Bruce Natson
Utah State WR Bruce Natson
Posted Jun 21, 2014

Preview 2014 - What You Need To Know About Utah State (Getty Images)

2014 Utah State Preview

What You Need To Know...

- 2014 Utah State Preview 
2014 Depth Chart & Unit Rankings To Come This Summer

What You Need To Know About The Offense: Chuckie's back. After suffering a torn ACL halfway through last year, star quarterback Chuckie Keeton returns just in time for an offense that needs some key replacements. Running back Joe Hill is also coming back from a knee injury, and he needs to shine behind a rebuilt line that has to replace four starters. With Keeton, the passing game should be efficient and effective, but it all comes down to the line that was soft in pass protection, but was excellent over the last few years for the team's spread attack. Consistency will be the key with six games last year scoring 24 or fewer points, and five scoring 40 or more.

What You Need To Know About The Defense: One of the nation's top defenses should be strong again, even with some massive concerns. The linebacking corps in the 3-4 alignment should be among the best in the Mountain West with the Vigil brothers, Zach and Nick, two hitting machines, and Kyler Fackrell a terrific outside presence. The front three needs two new starters to help out star end B.J. Larsen, and the pass rush has to be terrific to make up for the problems in the secondary with three key losses and only free safety Brian Suite back. Can the D finish eighth in the nation against the run again and 12th overall? That's asking a bit too much, but the system is sound.

Players You Need To Know

1. QB Chuckie Keeton, Sr.
He's back and ready to roll. The brilliant all-star quarterback was on his way to a special season before suffering a torn ACL halfway through the year. Before going down, he completed 69% of his passes for 1,388 yards and 18 touchdowns with just two picks, and he ran for 241 yards and two scores. Ultra-accurate, he hit 68% of his throws two years ago with 3,373 yards and 27 scores with nine picks, and he remained a rushing threat. Even though he can move and come up with over 500 rushing yards, he's not necessarily a dual-threat quarterback in the normal sense – he's a passer. The problems is size at just 6-2 and 200 pounds. 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, to go along with the injury last year, but when he can stay on the field last year he's a special talent.

2. LB Zach Vigil, Sr.
The leader and top returning tackler, he was second on the team with 124 stops with two sacks and 12.5 tackles for loss in a Second Team All-Mountain West season. The 6-2, 232-pound inside presence can get into the backfield, handle himself in pass coverage, and deliver the big, game-changing hit. Even more of a pass rusher a few years ago, if the coaching staff wants to turn him loose into the backfield, he'll come through. He came to Utah State as a 203-pound safety-sized prospect who was asked to beef up, and now he's one of the Mountain West's best all-around defenders.

3. LB Kyler Fackrell, Jr.
Able to play inside or out, but at his best as an outside linebacker, he took over the starting job right away when he came to Utah State and never let it go with 87 tackles and three sacks as a freshman and 82 tackles with five sacks and 13 tackles for loss last year. Agile and athletic for a 6-5, 245-pounder, he took his one pick 99 yards for a score and is great on the move in pass coverage. He came up with seven broken up passes two years

4. OT Kevin Whimpey, Sr.
The only returning starter up front, he's a good one. The 6-5, 295-pound starting left tackle can move and is good at making things happen down the field, and with his 26 straight starts, he brings the veteran leadership the line desperately needs. The former Idaho State transfer might not be a true anchor, but he's a good all-around blocker who should earn all-star honors.

5. WR Bruce Natson, Jr.
The speed, quickness and experience are all there to be one of the Mountain West's most dangerous weapons. He's only 5-7 and 151 pounds, but he can move – now he needs to come up with some big plays as a receiver. He only averaged 6.7 yards per catch last season, but he led the team with 59 grabs for 395 yards and two scores while running for 98 yards and three touchdowns and rocking as a punt returner averaging 11.3 yards per play with two touchdowns. He'll be Chuckie Keeton's main target at the team's T position.

6. DE B.J. Larsen, Sr.
The 6-5, 275-pound end is nasty against the run and can get into the backfield from time to time making 31 tackles with four sacks and eight tackles for loss. The key to his game is speed – he's shockingly fast for his size. Athletic, tough and experienced, he's going to be the main man for the three man front that has size, but not a lot of starting experience. A second-team All-Mountain West performer, he's an all-star both on and off the field.

7. RB Joe Hill, Sr.
The team's most dangerous back, the 5-11, 190-pounder has home-run hitting ability with blazing wheels. Now he has to come back from a knee injury that knocked him out early last year after running for 252 yards and a score. It hasn't happened yet with just 566 yards in his first three seasons, but if he can stay in one piece, he should be able to blow up statistically as both a receiver and a running back.

8. LB Nick Vigil, Soph,
With the talent to be an All-Mountain West performer, he should come up with a huge season after finishing with 57 tackles with a team-leading 5.5 sacks and 8.5 tackles for loss. At 6-2 and 230 pounds he has great size on the outside, and he's excellent bursting into the backfield with the skill and ability to work anywhere in the linebacking corps. Tough against the run and always active, he can make plays in pass coverage as well as be a thumper against the run. A high school running back as well as a linebacker, he can get around.

9. FS Brian Suite, Sr.
One of the team's steadiest and best defenders over the last few years, he followed up a 73-tackle sophomore season with 77 tackles last year with a team-leading five picks. At 6-3 and 205 pounds he has good size at free safety and can provide the big pop. He suffered a shoulder injury in 2011 that knocked him out all year, but he returned and has been a sure-thing tackler and a tough playmaker in the open field. Last season, he turned into more of a ball hawk earning all-star honors. All the tools are there to come up with an even bigger year.

10. QB Darell Garretson, Soph.
Thrown into the fire as a true freshman when Chuckie Keeton went down, the 6-0, 200-pounder came in and carried the team to the Mountain West title game completing 60% of his passes for 1,446 yards and ten scores with seven picks, and he ran for 33 yards. A high school all-star out of Arizona, he has a good, accurate arm with the smarts to handle himself well in tough spots. He bombed away for 370 yards in the win over Hawaii, and threw three touchdown passes in the win over Wyoming, but he struggled against Fresno State getting beaten up and completing just 46% of his chances. He's not Keeton, but he's a reliable backup.

- 2014 Utah State Preview