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The big 2014 Utah State football preview: Welcome back, Chuckie :)

Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

Quarterback Chuckie Keeton is expected to return at 100 percent for Utah State in 2014, but the Aggies' success in the Mountain West will depend on their ability to account for losses, especially in the secondary and on the offensive line.

SB Nation 2014 College Football Countdown

Confused? Check out the advanced-stats glossary here.

1. They survived

Head coach Gary Andersen, who needed just three years to craft a top-25 team from a destitute program, left for Wisconsin.

He took ace defensive coordinator Dave Aranda with him.

Running back Joe Hill got hurt in Game 5.

And then star quarterback Chuckie Keeton got hurt in Game 6.

Midway through the 2013 season, Utah State was led by a first-year head coach and a freshman quarterback. And the Aggies finished the regular season with five consecutive wins, beat out Boise State -- Boise State! -- for the MWC Mountain Division title, narrowly lost at Fresno State in the conference title game, beat Jordan Lynch and Northern Illinois in a bowl game, and finished 32nd in the F/+ rankings, only 15 spots below where they ranked in 2012.

Utah State survived in 2013 when it had every excuse in the world not to. I'm not sure you can say anything more flattering about any program. But now more tests come in 2014.

2. Skill, timing, and luck

There is so much randomness in college football. So much of your fate in a given year is determined by the timing of injuries nad the success of others.

Despite losing Andersen, Aranda, and a few defensive stars from the 2012 squad that ranked ninth in Def. F/+, Utah State's defense actually improved to eighth in 2013. It was a remarkable feat, one that could have helped USU maintain its top-20 overall ranking. But the offense lost the one guy it couldn't lose. And not only did the Aggies lose Chuckie Keeton, but they lost him during the BYU game, one week before the Boise State game. Quarterback Craig Harrison was thrown into the fire at the worst possible time -- overwhelmed, he went just 25-for-58 for 192 yards against the Cougars and Broncos -- and failed, giving way to freshman Darell Garretson. If Keeton is lost either before the season (with plenty of time to adapt to his absence) or after the Boise State game, maybe USU scores another win and gets to double digits for the second consecutive year.

Regardless, Keeton's injury means that USU is more prepared to account for his absence after 2014. That's good. And it appears he's on track to be completely healthy this fall. That's even better.

2013 Schedule & Results

Record: 9-5 | Adj. Record: 12-2 | Final F/+ Rk: 32
Date Opponent Opp. F/+ Rk Score W-L Adj. Score Adj. W-L 5-gm Adj. Avg.
29-Aug at Utah 31 26-30 L 35.8 - 32.5 W
7-Sep at Air Force 113 52-20 W 32.4 - 15.6 W
14-Sep Weber State N/A 70-6 W 34.3 - 10.0 W
21-Sep at USC 11 14-17 L 16.8 - 17.7 L
27-Sep at San Jose State 74 40-12 W 25.7 - 21.0 W 9.6
4-Oct BYU 30 14-31 L 23.6 - 21.4 W 9.4
12-Oct Boise State 45 23-34 L 24.8 - 23.9 W 6.2
19-Oct at New Mexico 110 45-10 W 26.6 - 14.5 W 3.8
2-Nov Hawaii 82 47-10 W 30.4 - 20.6 W 5.9
9-Nov at UNLV 96 28-24 W 29.8 - 26.8 W 5.6
23-Nov Colorado State 66 13-0 W 9.6 - (-0.1) W 7.1
30-Nov Wyoming 102 35-7 W 16.4 - 6.5 W 8.9
7-Dec at Fresno State 49 17-24 L 12.4 - 22.3 L 4.5
26-Dec vs. Northern Illinois 60 21-14 W 17.8 - 14.1 W 3.3
Category Offense Rk Defense Rk Spec. Tms. Rk
F/+ -7.4% 93 +18.3% 8 +2.8% 12
Points Per Game 31.8 50 17.1 7
Adj. Points Per Game 24.0 99 17.6 4

3. 7.7 points above replacement value

The idea of a "replacement player" is a common one in advanced stats, mostly because of VORP. It basically gauges the value of a player by comparing him to your standard-issue player at a given position, someone just about any team can land.

Obviously the idea of the "replacement player" is tricky at the college level. A replacement-level player at a powerhouse like Alabama is simply going to be different than someone with the same term at a mid-major program. That said, we got a pretty clear glimpse of Chuckie Keeton's value when he was lost for the season with a knee injury against BYU.

Adj. Points Per Game (first 5 games): Utah State 29.0, Opponent 19.4 (plus-9.6)
Adj. Points Per Game (last 9 games): Utah State 21.3, Opponent 16.6 (plus-4.7)

Adjusted Score is a way to measure game-to-game performance while taking both opponent and breaks into account. With Keeton, Utah State's offense was a little bit above average. Keeton had minimal big-play threats in the receiving corps, but he was able to efficiently move the ball against teams not named USC. (Almost nobody moved the ball efficiently against USC.)

Without Keeton, Utah State was 7.7 points worse. After averaging at least 5.6 yards per play four times in their first five games, the Aggies did so only three times the rest of the way (and against New Mexico, Hawaii, and UNLV). In their last four games of the year, they averaged just 3.8 yards per play. And the defense was so incredible that they still went 3-1 in that stretch.

With Keeton, Utah State was a legitimate top-25 team, one with an efficient offense and ridiculous defense. Without him, USU was all defense.

In 2014, the Aggies will be forced to reload a bit on the defensive side of the ball, and the offense might need to carry a bit more weight. And while Keeton will probably be healthy, it's probably not a good idea for him to have to carry 10 other offensive players in every game. He'll need some help.

Offense

FIVE FACTORS -- OFFENSE
Raw Category Rk Opp. Adj. Category Rk
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 1.15 60 IsoPPP+ 97.2 79
EFFICIENCY Succ. Rt. 39.4% 90 Succ. Rt. + 90.6 93
FIELD POSITION Def. Avg. FP 26.5 8 Def. FP+ 103.4 21
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Trip in 40 4.3 64 Redzone S&P+ 89.1 99
TURNOVERS EXPECTED 25.0 ACTUAL 19 -6.0
Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 60 96 94 94
RUSHING 52 82 95 77
PASSING 66 97 90 96
Standard Downs 101 98 86
Passing Downs 75 76 65
Q1 Rk 97 1st Down Rk 107
Q2 Rk 78 2nd Down Rk 99
Q3 Rk 72 3rd Down Rk 68
Q4 Rk 120

Quarterback

Note: players in bold below are 2014 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.

Player Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals Comp Att Yards TD INT Comp
Rate
Sacks Sack Rate Yards/
Att.
Darell Garretson 6'0, 200 So. 3 stars (5.5) 125 207 1436 10 7 60.4% 19 8.4% 5.8
Chuckie Keeton 6'2, 200 Sr. 2 stars (5.3) 136 196 1388 18 2 69.4% 9 4.4% 6.6
Craig Harrison 6'2, 203 Sr. NR 35 74 434 2 1 47.3% 4 5.1% 5.3
Kent Myers 6'0, 185 Fr. 2 stars (5.4)

Running Back

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals Rushes Yards TD Yards/
Carry
Hlt Yds/
Carry
Opp.
Rate
Joey DeMartino RB 221 1221 13 5.5 6.4 38.0%
Robert Marshall RB 94 415 1 4.4 3.3 36.2%
Joe Hill RB 5'11, 190 Sr. 2 stars (5.2) 53 252 1 4.8 5.2 34.0%
Chuckie Keeton QB 6'2, 200 Sr. 2 stars (5.3) 46 285 2 6.2 5.4 50.0%
Darell Garretson QB 6'0, 200 So. 3 stars (5.5) 41 149 0 3.6 3.9 31.7%
JoJo Natson WR 5'7, 151 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 29 108 3 3.7 4.5 37.9%
Kennedy Williams RB 5'8, 160 So. NR 21 68 0 3.2 3.8 33.3%
Kelvin Lee RB 5'10, 187 Jr. 2 stars (5.3) 14 54 0 3.9 5.2 21.4%
Rashad Hall RB 6'1, 200 Jr. 2 stars (5.2)
Karris Johnson RB 5'11, 208 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4)
Justin Hervey RB 5'9, 180 Fr. 2 stars (5.4)
LaJuan Hunt RB 5'9, 185 Fr. 2 stars (5.4)

4. Where are the big plays?

When Keeton got injured, college football Twitter was crestfallen. Few players were more fun to watch than the senior from Texas, and thanks to the increased prevalence of USU games on national television, we saw quite a bit of him. His decision-making is sound, his elusiveness is top-notch (hopefully this remains the case post-injury), and his ability to make plays out of the pocket is as strong as almost anybody's in college football.

But his supporting case got terribly depleted following the departure of running back Kerwynn Williams (2,209 rushing and receiving yards in 2012) and his top four wideouts. With less experience and known play-making ability around him, he found himself throwing shorter passes to players less capable of breaking big plays. He completed more than two-thirds of his passes, but for just 10.2 yards per completion.

Keeton's elusiveness might be just fine in 2014, but he needs as much help as he can get from his supporting cast, and considering last year's top two rushers are gone, as are two of the top three wideouts, there's nothing saying he'll get that help.

That Joe Hill is back will help. He also suffered a season-ending injury midway through the season, and he showed reasonably decent explosiveness in 2012-13. (Anything over 5.0 highlight yards per opportunity is pretty good; he had 5.8 in 2012 and 5.2 in 2013.) But if he isn't quite as strong post-injury, Keeton and offensive coordinator Kevin McGiven will have to turn to an almost completely untested batch of backs.

It's the same story at wide receiver. Travis Reynolds, easily the biggest big-play threat in the receiving corps, is gone. Ronald Butler showed decent explosiveness, but Bruce Natson and Brandon Swindall were used almost entirely close to the line of scrimmage. Receivers had a lovely spring -- Swindall was explosive, and former three-star recruits Alex Wheat and Braelon Roberts looked good -- but that came against a rebuilt set of USU corners. We'll see if they can do it against others, too.

Receiving Corps

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals Targets Catches Yards Catch Rate Target
Rate
%SD Yds/
Target
NEY Real Yds/
Target
RYPR
Travis Van Leeuwen WR-X 92 52 661 56.5% 20.2% 54.3% 7.2 -13 8.4 64.9
JoJo Natson WR-T 5'7, 151 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 79 58 385 73.4% 17.3% 51.5% 4.9 -274 5.3 37.8
Travis Reynolds WR 72 51 832 70.8% 15.8% 56.3% 11.6 243 10.8 81.7
Brandon Swindall WR-X 6'4, 198 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 55 29 285 52.7% 12.1% 44.9% 5.2 -105 5.6 28.0
Ronald Butler WR-Z 6'0, 185 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 36 24 346 66.7% 7.9% 32.0% 9.6 60 8.7 34.0
Joey DeMartino RB 29 13 125 44.8% 6.4% 46.2% 4.3 -67 4.2 12.3
D.J. Tialavea TE 22 17 93 77.3% 4.8% 57.9% 4.2 -96 4.3 9.1
Keegan Andersen TE 22 14 167 63.6% 4.8% 60.0% 7.6 -4 3.5 16.4
Joe Hill RB 5'11, 190 Sr. 2 stars (5.2) 15 13 94 86.7% 3.3% 53.3% 6.3 -43 6.2 9.2
Shaan Johnson WR-T 6'1, 190 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 10 7 72 70.0% 2.2% 83.3% 7.2 -9 5.9 7.1
Wyatt Houston TE 6'5, 245 So. 2 stars (5.4) 10 7 118 70.0% 2.2% 50.0% 11.8 37 8.7 11.6
Jefferson Court TE 6'3, 238 Sr. 2 stars (5.4)
Alex Wheat, Jr. WR-Z 6'4, 218 Sr. 3 stars (5.5)
Tyler Weese WR-T 6'2, 195 So. NR
Braelon Roberts WR-X 6'3, 173 RSFr. 3 stars (5.6)
Hayden Weichers WR-T 6'0, 170 RSFr. 2 stars (5.3)
Hunter Sharp WR 6'0, 190 Jr. 2 stars (5.4)
Devonte Robinson WR 6'2, 184 Jr. 2 stars (5.2)
Landon Horne TE 6'3, 230 So. 2 stars (5.2)
Marcus Mosley TE 6'4, 210 Fr. 3 stars (5.5)
Tyler Fox WR 5'11, 170 Fr. 2 stars (5.4)

Offensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs
LY/carry
Pass.
Downs
LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Team 92 2.69 3.19 37.3% 62.8% 23.5% 84.0 6.1% 7.7%
Rank 97 97 72 85 96 118 88 98 75
Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals Career Starts Honors/Notes
Tyler Larsen C 52 1st All-MWC
Eric Schultz RT 46
Jamie Markosian RG 27
Kevin Whimpey LT 6'5, 295 Sr. NR 26
Kyle Whimpey OG 18
Sini Tauauve'a LG 9
Logan Malohifo'ou LT 6'6, 304 Jr. 2 stars (5.2) 0
Bill Vavau RG 6'4, 314 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 0
Joe Summers C 6'2, 294 Sr. NR 0
Taani Fisilau LG 6'2, 293 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 0
Jake Simonich RT 6'5, 286 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0
Andrew Chen OT 6'3, 271 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4)
Tyshon Mosley OL 6'5, 305 RSFr. 2 stars (5.2)
Cody Boyer OL 6'6, 260 Fr. 2 stars (5.4)

5. Scary inexperience up front

Perhaps the most alarming part of Keeton's supporting cast in 2014 comes up front, where the Aggies will be forced to replace five of six players with starting experience. Those accounting for 152 career starts, including all-conference center Tyler Larsen, are gone. Only two-year starting guard Kevin Whimpey returns.

The good news, as it were, is that USU's line stats have been pretty poor for a couple of years now. The numbers can only fall so far. But again, when you've got a quarterback coming off of a knee injury and a skill position cast full of potential but almost no known production, an inexperienced line is the last thing you want to have to deal with.

Defense

FIVE FACTORS -- DEFENSE
Raw Category Rk Opp. Adj. Category Rk
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 1.05 19 IsoPPP+ 112.6 14
EFFICIENCY Succ. Rt. 36.9% 15 Succ. Rt. + 117.5 11
FIELD POSITION Off. Avg. FP 32.7 15 Off. FP+ 105.4 14
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Trip in 40 3.1 3 Redzone S&P+ 180.5 1
TURNOVERS EXPECTED 29.6 ACTUAL 30.0 +0.4
Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 12 7 11 7
RUSHING 8 1 12 2
PASSING 52 29 23 38
Standard Downs 7 13 11
Passing Downs 10 10 26
Q1 Rk 13 1st Down Rk 7
Q2 Rk 8 2nd Down Rk 6
Q3 Rk 10 3rd Down Rk 18
Q4 Rk 5

6. I want to marry this defense

The state of Utah knows defense. From 2007-13, 11 defenses from the state have ranked in the Def. F/+ top 30. Six have come in the last three years.

  1. 2013 Utah State (No. 8)
  2. 2008 Utah (No. 8)
  3. 2012 Utah State (No. 9)
  4. 2012 BYU (No. 10)
  5. 2007 Utah (No. 14)
  6. 2013 BYU (No. 15)
  7. 2011 Utah (No. 16)
  8. 2007 BYU (No. 20)
  9. 2009 Utah (No. 29)
  10. 2013 Utah (No. 30)
  11. 2009 BYU (No. 30)

The 2013 Utah State defense had the highest actual F/+ rating (plus-18.3 percent) of the bunch. And again, the Aggies did this despite losing defensive coordinator Dave Aranda, perhaps the best young defensive coordinator in the nation, to Wisconsin. Aranda's replacement, Todd Orlando, who had spent the previous two seasons coordinating another rather successful defense at FIU, not only kept USU's defense from dropping too far ... he made it even better.

The 2013 Aggies were simply stout. They were quite possibly the toughest defense in the country against the run. They had the size, depth, and talent up front to occupy blockers with three down linemen. They had a foursome of linebackers that lived in the backfield (not literally, as that would be a penalty ... unless ...). They had two of the most active cornerbacks in college football and a pair of safeties that made plays both behind the line and 30 yards downfield. This was a sound, sound unit. It made Utah State incredibly fun to watch despite the low scores on the scoreboard. There were occasional breakdowns when it comes to big pass plays, but that's only so much of an issue when you are so successful at making teams one-dimensional.

Orlando faces a relatively stiff test in 2014, however. The Aggies return quite a few difference-makers -- outside linebackers Kyler Fackrell and Nick Vigil, end B.J. Larsen, inside linebacker Zach Vigil, safety Brian Suite -- and Utah State redshirted a few defenders in anticipation of attrition. Still, six pretty damn good starters are gone; we'll see if the replacements are far enough along in their development to avoid a drop-off.

Defensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs
LY/carry
Pass.
Downs
LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Team 135.6 2.25 2.76 30.4% 65.5% 24.4% 133.2 5.7% 7.8%
Rank 1 2 17 3 56 11 13 38 41
Name Pos Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Paul Piukala DE 14 27.0 3.5% 5.0 0.0 0 1 1 0
AJ Pataiali'i NG 14 24.5 3.1% 3.5 1.0 0 0 0 0
B.J. Larsen DE 6'5, 275 Sr. NR 14 22.5 2.9% 8.0 4.0 0 0 0 0
Jordan Nielsen DE 6'5, 265 Jr. NR 14 22.0 2.8% 3.5 1.5 0 0 0 0
Ricky Ali'ifua NG 6'3, 275 So. 2 stars (5.2) 13 15.5 2.0% 4.0 1.5 0 1 0 0
Connor Williams DE 10 15.0 1.9% 2.0 2.0 0 0 0 0
Elvis Kamana-Matagi NG 6'2, 298 Sr. 2 stars (5.2) 14 9.5 1.2% 2.5 0.0 0 0 0 0
Travis Seefeldt NG 6'2, 302 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 12 6.0 0.8% 3.5 2.0 0 0 1 0
Jake Gallegos DE 6'2, 271 So. NR
Edmund Faimalo DE 6'3, 290 Jr. 2 stars (5.2)
John Taylor DE 6'2, 270 Jr. 2 stars (5.2)
Siua Taufa DE 6'1, 260 So. 2 stars (5.4)






Linebackers

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Jake Doughty ILB 14 95.0 12.2% 13.0 2.0 1 3 2 1
Zach Vigil ILB 6'2, 232 Sr. NR 14 86.5 11.1% 12.5 2.0 1 1 3 0
Kyler Fackrell OLB 6'5, 245 Jr. NR 14 59.5 7.6% 13.0 5.0 1 1 2 0
Nick Vigil OLB 6'2, 230 So. 2 stars (5.4) 14 39.5 5.1% 8.5 5.5 1 1 0 0
Tavaris McMillian LB 6'2, 230 Sr. 2 stars (5.2) 7 9.5 1.2% 1.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Terrell Thompson LB 10 6.5 0.8% 1.0 1.0 0 0 1 0
Keylon Hollis OLB 9 6.0 0.8% 0.5 0.0 0 0 0 0
Torrey Green ILB 6'2, 220 Jr. NR 7 4.5 0.6% 1.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Jarom Baldomero ILB 6'0, 230 Jr. NR 13 4.0 0.5% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
La'Bradford Harold OLB 5'11, 225 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 7 2.5 0.3% 0.0 0.0 0 1 0 0
Michael Okonkwo OLB 6'1, 222 Jr. NR
Alex Huerta ILB 6'2, 214 RSFr. NR
Sunia Tauteloli LB 6'0, 225 So. 2 stars (5.3)
Chase Christiansen OLB 6'2, 210 Fr. 2 stars (5.2)
Ian Togiai ILB 6'2, 230 Fr. 2 stars (5.2)






7. A test of depth

  • Pro: B.J. Larsen and three of four awesome linebackers return. And while there are two starters gone up front, second-stringers Jordan Nielsen and Rick Ali'fua return.
  • Con: Utah State had no backup linebackers last year. The Aggies got away with completely unproven depth because the starters didn't miss any playing time. And for all we know, that depth might prove itself just fine when given the opportunity. Any injuries whatsoever will force them to prove that, however, and there are nothing but unknowns outside of the top tier.
  • Pro: USU has earned the benefit of the doubt after the last two years.
  • Con: Two years ago, USU ranked 72nd in Def. F/+. The Aggies have only had a great defense for two years; it's not a birthright, and new blood simply might not be as good as the old blood.

Secondary

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Maurice Alexander FS 13 59.0 7.6% 9 3.5 1 6 1 0
Brian Suite FS 6'3, 205 Sr. 2 stars (5.2) 14 57.0 7.3% 1 0 5 6 1 0
Nevin Lawson CB 14 45.0 5.8% 5 0 4 14 1 0
Tay Glover-Wright CB 14 41.5 5.3% 5 1 0 10 1 0
Quinton Byrd CB 14 34.0 4.4% 2 0 1 9 0 0
Frankie Sutera FS 6'1, 201 Sr. NR 14 19.5 2.5% 0 0 1 0 0 0
Cameron Sanders SS 13 14.5 1.9% 1 0 0 0 0 0
Jeremy Morris CB 14 11.5 1.5% 0 0 1 2 0 0
Rashard Stewart CB 5'11, 185 Sr. 2 stars (5.2) 13 11.0 1.4% 2.5 1 0 2 0 0
Clayton Christensen S 14 5.5 0.7% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Devin Centers FS 5'9, 190 So. NR 13 2.0 0.3% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Ladale Jackson CB 5'11, 178 Jr. 3 stars (5.5)
Marwin Evans SS 6'1, 195 Jr. 2 stars (5.4)
Daniel Gray CB 5'1, 170 So. 3 stars (5.5)
Marquan Ellison CB 5'11, 175 So. 2 stars (5.2)
Myron Turner FS 5'11, 170 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4)
Deshane Hines CB 5'10, 180 Jr. 2 stars (5.4)
Aaron Wade S 6'2, 180 Fr. 2 stars (5.4)

8. Potential weakness in the secondary

I can't work up too much concern about the front seven even with a little bit of turnover. But there's a lot of turnover in the secondary. Not only three of four starters gone, but four of the top six backups are gone, too. Maurice Alexander was one of the most successfully aggressive safeties in the country; he was a huge asset near the line of scrimmage. Meanwhile, corners Nevin Lawson, Tay Glover-Wright, and Quinton Byrd combined for not only five picks and 33 passes defensed, but ALSO 12 tackles for loss. The secondary did occasionally give up some big plays, but they were easily effective enough to counter that.

Now Orlando (also the safeties coach) and Kendrick Shaver (corners coach and defensive passing game coordinator) start over.

There are some athletes here -- among others, Ladale Jackson is a former three-star recruit, and Daniel Gray started briefly at Tennessee in 2012 -- but the experience level goes from major asset to liability. We'll see how much of USU's recent success is because of system and how much is because of a unique confluence of talent.

Special Teams

Punter Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Punts Avg TB FC I20 FC/I20
Ratio
Jaron Bentrude 6'1, 209 Sr. 73 39.8 6 39 31 95.9%
Kicker Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Kickoffs Avg TB OOB TB%
Jake Thompson 6'0, 200 So. 86 62.4 42 0 48.8%
Place-Kicker Ht, Wt 2014
Year
PAT FG
(0-39)
Pct FG
(40+)
Pct
Nick Diaz 5'8, 182 Sr. 51-52 13-17 76.5% 4-6 66.7%
Jake Thompson 6'0, 200 So. 0-0 0-0 N/A 1-3 33.3%
Returner Pos. Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Returns Avg. TD
Tay Glover-Wright KR 19 22.6 0
Travis Reynolds KR 4 16.5 0
JoJo Natson PR 5'7, 151 Jr. 31 11.3 2
Devin Centers PR 5'9, 190 So. 2 2.0 0
Category Rk
Special Teams F/+ 12
Field Goal Efficiency 73
Punt Return Efficiency 6
Kick Return Efficiency 86
Punt Efficiency 34
Kickoff Efficiency 6
Opponents' Field Goal Efficiency 39

9. Just find a return man...

Utah State was so good at the little things in 2013. The Aggies stiffened near the goal line, and they were good to great in the field position battle. Really, all they lacked was a kick returner, and they'd have had a top-10 special teams unit.

The strengths of this unit return: punter Jaron Bentrude doesn't have the longest kicks in the world, but opponents get almost no return opportunities against him. Bruce Natson is one of the best punt returners in the country. And while Nick Diaz could stand to be a little more consistent on shorter kicks, he's solid.

If the Aggies can unearth a good kick return man (Natson perhaps?), this should once again be a great unit.

2014 Schedule & Projection Factors

2014 Schedule
Date Opponent Proj. Rk
31-Aug at Tennessee 57
6-Sep Idaho State NR
13-Sep Wake Forest 89
20-Sep at Arkansas State 84
3-Oct at BYU 32
11-Oct Air Force 105
18-Oct at Colorado State 85
25-Oct UNLV 109
1-Nov at Hawaii 93
7-Nov at Wyoming 100
15-Nov New Mexico 116
21-Nov San Jose State 82
29-Nov at Boise State 18
Five-Year F/+ Rk 0.0% (54)
Two-Year Recruiting Rk 107
TO Margin/Adj. TO Margin* 11 / 4.6
TO Luck/Game +2.3
Approx. Ret. Starters (Off. / Def.) 7 (3, 4)

10. Don't take Chuckie away from us again, please

We'll begin to learn if Utah State is truly built for the long haul this year. Taking a moribund program (here's your annual reminder that the Aggies won 15 games in the six years before Gary Andersen took over and didn't have a winning record from 1997 to 2011) and putting together a short span of success is hard but reasonably common. Sustaining that success, especially through a coaching change, is anything but common.

Matt Wells passed his first test, both in how he crafted his staff and how his first team played; but as the players most closely associated with USU's 27 wins in three years begin to graduate and depart, it's up to Wells to replenish the stock. He might pass that test, but even with the return of Chuckie Keeton, there is quite a bit of uncertainty here.

I think the Aggies are still in pretty good shape for 2014, however. The front seven should still be strong enough to key a decent defense even if the pass defense falls apart to a certain degree, and the return of both Keeton and Joe Hill should make the backfield just effective enough to move the ball a bit even if the line is sketchy. Injuries in the backfield or in the front seven could be devastating, but that goes for a lot of teams. The first string, as we know it, is pretty good.

But seriously, Sports God, don't injure Chuckie Keeton in his last year. We don't ask for much, but we want to watch him for another 13-14 games.

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