The biggest question after the last season of Utah State Football was who should start at quarterback this fall. Adam Kennedy and Chuckie Keeton both succeeded at the position but there was clearly a difference in the win-lose column. Gary Andersen however reopened the quarterback competition between the two during this spring.
Last season started with a surprise as true freshmen Chuckie Keeton made a huge start against the defending national champion Auburn Tigers. Unfortunately this game was the start of a number of close defeats for the Aggies with Chuckie under center. With Keeton starting the Aggies went 2-5 and had a lead in the fourth quarter of every game he played. His completion percentage was a respectable 60.9% and had a touchdown to interception ratio of 11-2.
Chuckie was much more of a game manager than Adam Kennedy was. He filled this role perfectly and allowed USU to use the running game to control the game. Even both his interceptions were more of great plays by the defense than his fault. His first interception the ball was ripped right out of the receiver’s hands and on the second the defender reached backward deflected the ball then turned around and caught it.
Keeton also showed great instincts as a scrambler. He was able to keep plays alive and get critical first downs. This scrambling is also how he got injured. There are concerns if he will be a willing scrambler after being carted off on a stretcher and immobilized. He scrambled once in the bowl game but we never really got to see him take a hit since the injury.
Each quarterback was put in very different situations. During Chuckie’s tenure as a starter, the Aggies entered the fourth quarter with the lead six out of the seven games. The seventh game was against Auburn where he led the USU offense to two straight touchdowns to take a late lead. During his time as a starter the Aggies failed to finish on these late game leads.
Adam Kennedy had only thrown five passes in clean up duty when he was sent onto the field by the injury to Keeton against Hawaii. He led an inspired comeback of a team that had been losing confidence and was down big in Hawaii. He then led another comeback the next week against San Jose State. USU rattled off five straight victories and captured a bid to a bowl game. However this team was not dominate and came from behind in four out of the five victories. Also there was a disturbing trend as his passing yards per a game went down as the season progressed. Including in the bowl game against Ohio where he threw only 63 yards. He still finished with a respectable eleven touchdowns with four interceptions and a completion percentage of 69.1%. He had a lot more opportunities to throw downfield than Chuckie but had a habit of under throwing deep balls. He was extremely lucky on quite a few throws and included some interceptions that were dropped. Receivers also made quite a few plays for him especially Chuck Jacobs and Matt Austin. Including a few that led to touchdowns…sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good.
One interesting thing about Kennedy was he actually showed the ability to run the ball. He made good decisions in the option read and showed a lot of grit running the ball. During the closing seconds of the Hawaii game he went airborne going for the final score and in the Nevada game he clinched the Aggies victory with a 12 yard keeper on 3rd and 10. So despite him not being the mobile quarterback of the two, he is able to hold his own in the running game.
The question is with Matt Wells now the Offensive Coordinator and him wanting to focus increasing the vertical passing game, who do we want as the Quarterback this year? Keeton is only a sophomore and outplayed Kennedy during the spring. Kennedy led the Aggies in a late season surge and got them back to a bowl game. Many have said that we should redshirt Chuckie and start Kennedy this season.
I disagree, as starting experience for Chuckie will prove immeasurable help in the coming years when USU joins the Mountain West. Keeton is also a much better scrambler and would help with the void left by Robert Turbin and Michael Smith. Chuckie may not take as many shots downfield but he will give us a better chance to win by limiting mistakes and making plays on his feet.