For those of you heading up to catch Utah State’s last big football scrimmage this fall, here are three position battles on offense to keep your eyes on.
Just about everyone around knows the history of this heated battle, so there’s no need to rehash last season’s events in detail, so I won’t. What’s important is that right now it looks as though Chuckie Keeton has the inside track on the starting spot. It’s no secret the coaching staff prefers Chuckie as evidenced by Coach Andersen’s declaration, shortly after the Aggies’ bowl loss to Ohio, that Keeton would be the starting quarterback heading into spring despite Adam Kennedy’s gaudy win-loss record.
Keeton started with the first team in Saturday’s scrimmage and got off to a slow start. He held the ball quite a bit and often looked tentative in the pocket, tucking the ball for short yardage gains or losses. As the scrimmage wore on, Keeton looked more comfortable and made some solid throws including a perfectly thrown 50-yard strike to Travis Van Leeuwen for a touchdown.
Kennedy, on the other hand, really had a tough time on Saturday. He completed 6 of 9 passes and threw a couple picks. He was late on a deep throw to an open JoJo Natson which resulted in an easy Will Davis interception. Though he had played well leading up to the scrimmage in practice while Keeton nursed a knee issue, Adam seemed to lose any ground he made up during that time with his sub-par performance.
What 2 Watch 4: Keeton is a fantastic pocket passer when his first read is open. He sometimes struggles to work his way through his progressions, though, or refuses to throw into any sort of coverage. That refusal keeps turnovers to a minimum, but also reduces the impact the Aggies’ talented receiving corps can have on a game. Pay attention to Keeton’s effectiveness as a passer as he works through his progressions. If he can get the ball to secondary receiving options while still taking care of the ball, he will all but lock up the starting job heading into the season opener vs. Southern Utah. If Chuckie struggles badly tonight and Adam bounces back with an exceptional outing, the position battle may rage on for another week or so.
The battle at left tackle is between two Aggies with zero FBS experience. Redshirt sophomore Kevin Whimpey and true freshman Logan Malohifo’ou are the two big men vying for the spot left vacant when Oscar Molina-Sanchez made the switch to right tackle.
Whimpey started with the first team in Saturday’s scrimmage and seemed to do well sealing the outside edge, allowing running back Joe Hill to turn the corner for some big gains. Pass protection was a different issue, though. Kevin had a hard time dealing with the speed rush around the outside. Kyler Fackrell and company had no problem running around him to pressure the quarterback. Whimpey’s strength is his physicality in the run game, not the lateral movement needed to keep up with speedy outside pass rushers.
Logan Malohifo’ou brings the athleticism and quickness to the position that Whimpey lacks. Logan does not possess the strength Whimpey does (nor does anyone, really) and doesn’t have the year experience in the Aggie system that Kevin has. Notwithstanding the lack of experience, Logan has shown he’s more than capable of handling himself in the trenches, and the coaching staff expects big things from him in the future.
What 2 Watch 4: Pay special attention to how the pass protection holds up on the left side of the line. The Aggie defense was able to account for 9 sacks on Saturday, which is not going to cut it for offensive line coach, T.J. Woods. If Whimpey is able to protect the passer, he should be in line for the starting spot. If Kevin struggles in this regard, and Logan shows he is capable of handling the rush, Malohifo’ou might steal the spot.
Returning senior wide receivers Matt Austin and Chuck Jacobs have the X and T-WR positions all but locked up. The Z-WR position is still up for grabs, though. Junior Travis Reynolds entered fall camp as the leading candidate to fill the spot, but 6’5″ JC transfer, Dwayne Lorick, has impressed the coaching staff early on with his size and ability. Lorick did not play on Saturday out of precaution because of a slight injury issue.
Junior Travis Van Leeuwen has also positioned himself well in the battle. Van Leeuwen had some big catches last year including an important 4th quarter touchdown in the Aggies comeback against San Jose State.
Each receiver brings qualities the coaching staff likes. Reynolds brings speed and exceptional route running ability. Van Leeuwen boasts sure hands, a lot of game experience, and size. Lorick brings big-time size and talent strong enough to be considered for a starting slot after arriving in Logan just months ago.
What 2 Watch 4: If all three receivers participate in the scrimmage tonight, whoever lines up opposite Austin in the slot will be the front-runner for the job. The battle is probably far from over, but a stand-out performance from any of the three should go a long ways in the lead up to August 30th. And if you haven’t seen the size of Lorick’s mitts, be sure to check them out tonight. They’re ginormous!
Now that you know what to keep an eye one, get to Romney, enjoy the scrimmage and pray for no injuries!