Posts Tagged ‘Chuckie Keeton’


1.  Boise State.  Nine offensive starters and eight defensive starters return.  Sure, they lose their starting quarterback and top two rushers, but Boise has been reloading for years (as opposed to rebuilding).  Shane Williams-Rhodes is the best offensive player in the MW.  Boise has the best offensive line in conference.  Why?  Because all five starters return.  Scott Huff, the offensive line coach, sleeps well.  If any improvement is needed, see the defense, but by no means is that side of the ball a true weakness.  Similar to finding a bit of dust on a clean car.

2.  Utah State.  If Chuckie Keeton stays healthy, a good year for the people of Logan, Utah.  If Chuckie is dinged, a long year for the people of Logan, Utah.  Losing Jo Jo Natson hurts.  With Mr. Natson, the Aggies would have made Boise a tad nervous regarding first place in the Mountain division.  Now, not so much.  LaJuan Hunt should see his 111 rushing attempts increase greatly in 2015.  So, too, will his average of 4.9 yards.  The same improvement will be seen from Hunter Sharp at the wide receiver spot.  A quality football player.  USU’s main challenge will be the defensive line.  Look for their talented linebackers to help in front and help often.

3.  Air Force.  The Cadets return four of their top five rushers.  Sure, they lose their starting quarterback, but this is Air Force on the ground.  Forget the irony.  Your head will explode.  Only four defensive starters return (one lineman, two linebackers and one defensive back).  Granted, brains go a long way, but the inexperience on the defensive side of the ball may be painful.  Air Force gave up 103 fourth quarter points last year.  That number will increase in 2015.  During close games, if Air Force has the ball in the final minute, be glad.  If not, cringe.

4.  University of New Mexico.  Two words:  Lamar Jordan.  This kid has the soul of Doug Flutie and the nerves of a sniper (probably inappropriate, but the best I could do.  The sniper reference, not Flutie).  Jhurell Pressley and Teriyon Gipson are the best one-two running back punch in the entire MWC.  The Lobos will score and score often in 2015.  The Lobos need to provide a much improved defensive effort in the third quarter (a stunning 133 points were allowed during those fifteen minutes in 2014.  Evidently, understanding defensive adjustments during halftime is optional).  This is a squad returning seven defensive starters that were part of a defense that allowed well over 6,000 total offensive yards last year.  The Lobos defense gave up 58 points twice and 60 points once last year.  Enough said.

5.  Colorado State:  Anytime a head coach of Jim McElwain’s ability leaves the field, so does my confidence.  Include the departure of Garrett Grayson, and the Rams have a significant challenge in 2015.  The return of Treyous Jarrells at running back is a place to begin.  Rashard Higgins (96 catches, 1,750 yards) and the almost as talented Joe Hansley and Xavier Williams hope to benefit from an occasional pass or two tossed their way.  Who will get the ball to that trio?  Nick Stevens?  Coleman Key?  Stay tuned.  Thankfully for the Fort Collins faithful, eight defensive starters return.  If Lamar Jordan wasn’t the UNM qb, I would place the Rams fourth in the Mountain division.  But, that’s not the case.

6.  Wyoming.  Wyoming, where the wind blows and so, too, does hope.  Only five offensive and four (ouch) defensive starters return (including the loss of six of their top ten tacklers).  Losing their starting quarterback and top two receivers adds to the challenge.  However, Brian Hill and Shaun Wick will see plenty of action from the offensive backfield.  Last year, they combined for 271 rushing attempts.  Look for 300+ in 2015.  If the Cowboys can repeat last year’s home record of 3-3, rejoice Laramie, rejoice.  On behalf of Coach Craig Bohl and staff (most of whom followed Mr. Bohl from North Dakota State University), this group of coaches provide the best chance for the Cowboys to return to the heady days of Joe Tiller.


1.  San Diego State:  Last year’s finish of 7-6/5-3 including a bowl game loss was disappointing . . . which is evidence of just how far Aztec football has come.  Donnel Pumphrey is the best running back in the MW, bar none.  The other top two SDSU rushers, Chase Price and Dakota Gordon, also return.  The receiving corps in 2104 was a massive disappointment.  Given a new offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach, look for renewed spirit and result.  Eight defensive starters return from the best MW defensive squad in 2014.  Not a single defensive back from the 2014 team leaves.  Can an Aztec defense that allowed a paltry 192 passing yards per game yield even less in 2015?  Yep.

2.  San Jose State.  Call me crazy.  Call me nut job.  The Spartans have a fine coaching staff (though, I find suspect the hiring of Al Borges as offensive coordinator) in year two of a massive overhaul.  The under-the-radar-who-is-this-guy Joe Gray at the qb spot provides the Spartans with one of the better MWC quarterbacks.  Mr. Gray, in eleven games, threw for better than 2,300 yards and had a completion rate of 63.6%.  Fair warning on behalf of Spartan defensive foes, their top three receivers return.  Tyler Ervin (5.6 yards per rush) and Brandon Monroe (4.3 yards per rush) offer quality rushing options.  On the other side of the ball, San Jose State loses six of their top ten tacklers and return only six starters.  The 2015 Spartan defensive challenge is to rebuild their linebacking unit.  SJSU defensive backs had better fill gaps quickly and get to know the opposing running backs.

3.  Fresno State.  Along with Colorado State, the Bulldogs suffer the most notable slip in the MWC during 2015.  They lose both their number one and two quarterbacks from 2014, all significant rushers, less their number one back (Marteze Waller) as well as their top three receivers.  Only six offensive starters return along with a paltry five defensive starters including only five of their top ten tacklers from 2014.  Continuing with the defensive concerns, last year Fresno State gave up 32.4 points per game.  That number increases in 2015.  Granted, Boise reloads, but Fresno must rebuild.  Any significant defensive injury or prolonged struggle at the quarterback spot may lead to a finish of less than third in the West.

4.  Nevada.  Losing Cody Fajardo will have the same effect that Colorado State will experience with the loss of Mr. Grayson.  Mr. Fajardo was also the Wolfpack’s leading rusher.   A great deal of Nevada offense has left the field.  Granted, Don Jackson (4.4 yards per rush) and James Butler (4.5 yards per rush) will see their participation increase greatly during 2015.  If the ‘pack can find somebody to throw the ball to Jerico Richardson (56 catches) and Hasaan Henderson (45 catches), perhaps 2015 may not be bleak.  Speaking of bleak, on the other side of the ball, only five defensive starters return.   Not a single starting defensive back returns.  Opposing quarterbacks may have much to smile about during Nevada games.  If the Wolfpack defense allows less than 30 points per game, enjoy the surprise.

5.  Hawaii.  The only reason I choose a Norm Chow coached team not to finish last is because UNLV hired a high school coach as head coach.  True to Mr. Chow’s demeanor, he retains his starting quarterback, Ikaika Woolsey, then immediately curries favor to the USC transfer, Max Wittek.  The top two wide receivers return along with two of the top three rushers.  With eight offensive starters, including the shunned Mr. Woolsey, this is Hawaii’s best Chow version.  Unfortunately, seven of their top-ten tacklers leave.  Six defensive starters return.  Smart money says 2014’s 26.8 points per game (second best in the West division) increases to counter balance an improved offense because Hawaii seems to suffer from a lack of luck.

6.  UNLV.  As mentioned above, the Rebels hired Tony Sanchez, a high school coach, as head coach.  Mr. Sanchez, brave soul, has five returnees on each side of the ball.  Starting quarterback Blake Decker returns as do three of the top four rushers (including Mr. Decker).  Devonte Boyd (65 catches) and Kendal Keys (12.9 yards per reception) offer receiving experience.  Six of the top seven tacklers return (they will be busy, very busy) in 2015.  Last year, the Rebels defense allowed 513.5 yards per game.  Perhaps they can be south of 500 yards allowed per game in 2015.  Perhaps.  Final note, all but one of the UNLV coaching staff enter their respective first year as coach at UNLV.  Could be a long, hot football season on the Strip.


Lots of changes await in the 2014 MWC.  Predicted order of finish is included.

Mountain Division

1.  Boise State.  A stunner, I know.  The only reason I choose Boise over Utah State is because of the Broncos defense.  16 of the 20 top tacklers from 2013 return including the #1, 2, 4, 5 and 6 guys.  As for Boise’s offense, Grant Hedrick returns as the starter, but he was statistically, let’s say, uneven in 2013.  His passing average per game was 140 yards.  Rather measly in comparison to other starting MWC qbs last year.  But, his 69% completion rate is impressive.  The return of Jay Ajayi and Charles Bertoli ensures a capable running game.  Shane Williams-Rhodes is one of the top five offensive players in the MW.  This guy does everything well:  Run the ball, catch the ball, return punts, return kicks and saves kittens.  He and Matt Miller provide ample opportunity for downfield action.  A wild card for Boise is their new head coach, Bryan Harsin.  Sure, he had mild success at Arkansas State (7-5) and he’s a former Boise offensive coordinator, but his system is new as is his offensive coordinator, Mike Sanford.  Thus, lots of new awaits Boise.  If Boise stumbles to second place this year, on behalf of Utah State, don’t be surprised.

2.  Utah State.  Chuckie Keeton returns as the starter of choice this year.  Last year’s carousel of Keeton (196 passing attempts), Garretson (209 passing attempts) and Harrison (74 passing attempts) is vowed not to be repeated.  Given Keeton’s completion rate of 69.4% and 231 passing yards per game, he is the one.  The good news for Aggie fans is if Keeton is injured, Garretson awaits.  The running game is average and will likely decline in 2014.  Last year’s 178.1 ypg will decrease, but the passing yardage per game should increase.  What could make Keeton’s year too interesting is, less than Ronald Butler, the receiving corps may prove a challenge.  As for the USU defense, they don’t return near the number of top twenty tacklers from 2013 as does Boise, thus my choice of the Broncos for first place in the Mountain division.

3.  Colorado State.  The only reason I’m choosing the Rams over Air Force is Garrett Grayson.  Grayson is the best qb in the Mountain division.  He has five returning receivers who averaged between 11.6 ypc and 16.4 ypc.  Lots of targets.  Unfortunately, the Rams have no returning running game with 2013 experience.  2013’s 202.7 rushing ypg should diminish substantially in 2014.  Defending the Rams, less the surprise development of a running game, will be centered on Grayson and his receivers.  If opposing teams cover well and knock down Grayson, beating CSU will be rather one-dimensional.  The Rams return eight of their top ten tacklers, thus should have a dependable defense.

4.  Air Force.  The Cadets endured a horrible 2013 MW record of 0-8.  Injury to seemingly anybody who did or could play quarterback was the monster problem.  Nate Romine returns.  Sure, Air Force’s idea of a successful passing play is to sucker the opposing safeties towards the line of scrimmage, then heave the ball to the streaking receiver . . . and occasionally this practice works.  Last year, not so much.  Two running backs return from last year with impressive yards per carry:  Jon Lee (6.5) and Sam Gagliano (7.3).  Karson Roberts, less an injury to Romine, will most likely operate with Lee and Gagliano, and contribute his 5.2 ypc.  Regarding the old heave-ho passing scheme, Air Force returns six receivers with double-digit yards per catch averages, but consider the strategy.  Defensively, these guys are tough as nails.  But, so is most of the Mountain division.  If the Cadets average 2013’s 367.7 total offense per game, be happy.

5.  New Mexico.  Bob Davies does a lot with a little.  The Lobos learned hiring the wrong guy (the gentleman who succeeded Rocky Long) takes a great deal of time to heal, thus patience with Davies is required.  Will 2014 feature the quarterback carousel of 2013?  A little Mitchem, a dash of Gautsche.  Both posted anemic numbers.  Thankfully, Gautsche can run (6.6 ypc).  Crusoe Gongbay, Jhurell Pressley and Teriyon Gipson are a formidable trio of running backs.  Jeric Magnant, Marcus Bundy and Carlos Wiggins will hope to see more footballs thrown in their general direction than last year (Magnant and Bundy had a team high of 19 receptions each.  Ouch).  Enough of the defense returns to perhaps flip a close game to the Lobos benefit.  Their final two games @ CSU and Wyoming at home could make the season.

6.  Wyoming.  Winters are brutal in Wyoming.  Football will be as well.  Consider new head coach Craig Bohl, no quarterback in waiting, less Shaun Wick, no running game and all the returning wide receivers wondering who will launch a ball in their general direction makes for a difficult 2014.  However, eight of their top ten tacklers return and sixteen of twenty overall.  They will be busy.  Oxygen, please.  Last year Wyoming averaged 472.8 total offense per game.  If 2014 offers 372.8, be surprised and happy.

West Division

1.  San Diego State.  At this point in my missive, you know I’m all about returning starting quarterbacks, thus my choice of the Aztecs over the Bulldogs.  Quinn Kaehler, less injury, will have a monster 2014.  Offensive coordinator, Bob Toledo will let the offense fly.  This is similar to Warren Buffett wanting to make more money.  Guaranteed.  Donnel Pumphrey will better last year’s numbers on the ground.   The wide receivers feature Ezell Ruffin (16.7 ypc) and Eric Judge (16.8ypc).  Those numbers are pre-Toledo “let the ball fly” in 2014.  Anticipate significant increases.  The defensive side of the ball provides the challenge in 2014.  Only 4 of the top 10 tacklers return.  If the defense holds, the Aztec kicking game can make 2 or 3 field goal attempts on a regular basis (2013’s pathetic results equated with attempting to land on Mars) and the team is ready to play at kickoff rather than post-half time, life is good.

2.  Fresno State.  Much like Boise State, defense rules the pound in Fresno.  8 of the top 10 tacklers return including the first 6.  On behalf of their opponents, be ready for contact.  However, 391 passing yards per game via Mr. Carr have left the field.  Thus, second place in 2014.  Brian Burrell is hardly heir apparent (7-12 for all of 2013).  Returning to Mr. Carr, 5,031 passing yards will no longer be seen in beloved Fresno.  The Bulldogs passing yardage per game sinks.  The running game increases.  Josh Quezada, Marteze Waller, and Malique Micenheimer will see a dramatic increase in carries.  Josh Harper (12.8 ypc), Greg Watson (13.6 ypc) and Aaron Peck (10.6 ypc) will miss Mr. Carr immensely.

3.  Nevada.  The Wolfpack chose the wrong guy to replace Chris Ault.  Brian Pollan’s 2013 effort and result went from bad to worse.   The good news?  Cody Fajardo returns.  Cody had a mere 3 picks in 358 attempts in 2013.  Wow-wee.  However, Cody should never, ever, never run the football.  141 rushing attempts resulted in 154 lost yards.  Throw the ball, Cody.  If he does, the 250 yards passing per game should significantly increase while the running game remains anemic.  Much like CSU, prepare for the pass and the let the run provide momentary entertainment to no effect.  Thankfully for the Pack faithful, the defense returns 17 of the top 20 tacklers.   However, the Pack will be in defensive pursuit far longer than desired.

4.  San Jose State.  Much like the Bulldogs, the Spartans will suffer former-qb-gone withdrawals.  And much like the Bulldogs, the running game will be much emphasized as contrasted to 2013.  David Fales threw for 349.1 yards per game last year.  Blake Jurich will be a tad shy in 2014.  Jarrod Lawson and Thomas Tucker will enjoy significant increases from respective carries of 164 and 66 last year.  Be prepared to run and run and run.  On the other side of the ball, SJSU will return 16 of their top 20 tacklers.  Granted, they will be busy.

5.  UNLV.  Last year’s 411.4 yards of total offense will drop dramatically.  Nick Sherry is the likely starting quarterback.  Nick had 75 passing attempts in 2013.  He was intercepted 5 times.  Do the math.  If  Mr. Sherry throws 400 attempts in 2014 (Caleb Herring threw 405 in 2013), the result is 26 interceptions.  Gonna be a windy, dusty, dry 2014 in Las Vegas.  The top three receivers from 2013 return, but the football maybe out of reach.  Shaq Murray-Lawerence may well improve upon his stellar 8.9 yard per rush.  On the other side, one of their top five tacklers returns while a mere 11 of the top 20 return.

6.  Hawaii.  Wyoming’s sister.  I’m sorry.  Norm Chow is an awful coach.  He is the definition of ego-gone-wild.  Norm is never wrong.  Just ask him.  Rushing yards will give occasional false hope.  Joey Iosefa is a house on feet.  This guy is beyond large.  I wince while watching the opposition “tackle” him.  He is a two tackler minimum.  Maybe three.  Steven Lakalaka and Diocemy Saint Juste provide ample company on behalf of Mr. Iosefa.  And now, the qb’s.  I pity the three of you.  Norm screaming at you.  Norm demeaning you.  Norm being Norm.  Taylor Graham (46% completion rate), Ikaika Woolsey (37.9% completion rate) and Jeremy Higgins (okay, one game, he went 5-11) are the guys who will not get the ball downfield to the three K’s (Kirkwood, King and Kemp).  Scott Harding and Vasquez Haynes will join the three K’s in year-long frustration.  The defense will spend far too much time on the field.  Hydration will be the major theme.