2015 Utah State Aggies Football Preview

Team Info
Utah State Aggies
Head Coach: Matt Wells
2014 record: 10-4 overall, 6-2 Mountain West Mountain
2014 Postseason results: Beat UTEP 21-6 in the New Mexico Bowl
2015 returning starters: 8 offense, 6 defense

Betting Info
Odds to win 2016 College Football  Championship game: 2000/1
Odds to win 2015 MWC Championship Game: 10/1
Regular season wins: under 7 -140 /over 7 +110
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Utah State looks to go to a bowl for a fifth straight season in 2015.
Utah State looks to go to a bowl for a fifth straight season in 2015.

The Utah State Aggies have gone to a bowl for 4 straight seasons. Last year, the Aggies went 10-4 including 6-2 in the Mountain West Mountain Division. Utah State tied with Colorado State for second in the division behind Boise State. All three teams along with Air Force finished with 10 wins last year. Utah State ended the season with 6 wins in the last 7 games including a convincing 21-6 win over UTEP in the New Mexico Bowl. The only loss in that stretch was a 50-19 blowout loss to Boise State int he regular season finale. A win would have given the Aggies the Mountain Division title.

Fourteen starters are back for Utah State including 8 on offense. Coach Matt Wells is back for his third season with the Aggies.

Offense

The Aggies averaged 379 yards per game on offense, including 199 passing and 180 rushing yards. The Aggies averaged 27 points a game. Those numbers weren’t great and Utah State needs to improve in 2015. Eight starters are back for the Aggies.

Despite the average numbers last year,  offensive coordinator Kevin McGiven left to become the OC at Oregon State, who are now coached by former Utah State coach Gary Andersen. Co-offensive coordinator Luke Wells, brother of coach Matt, is back and will also coach the tight ends. Utah State hired former Oklahoma offensive coordinator Josh Heupel as the co-coordinator with Luke Wells.

Utah State used four quarterbacks last year because of injury. Darell Garretson took over for an injured Chuckie Keeton. It was the second straight season Keeton’s season ended with a knee injury. Keeton was granted an extra year of eligibility by the NCAA and looks to stay healthy in his senior season. Garretson himself suffered an injury after five games and he was replaced by Kent Myers eventually. Craig Harrison took over for Garretson in the Colorado State game and started the UNLV game before he himself was injured. Fourth stringer Myers started the rest of the season. Garretson transferred to Oregon State to join McGiven and Andersen. Harrison has graduated.

Garretson threw for 1,140 yards with 8 touchdowns and 3 interceptions, and also had 2 rushing touchdowns. Myers threw for 866 yards with 5 touchdowns and 3 interceptions, and rushed for 310 yards on 56 carries with 5 touchdowns. Keeton threw for 426 yards with 2 touchdowns and 4 interceptions, and also added a rushing touchdown on 20 carries for 81 yards. Harrison threw for 249 yards with 3 touchdowns and no interceptions, and rushed for 54 yards. Keeton will be the starter if he can stay healthy. Myers and Oregon transfer Damion Hobbs will compete for the back-up job.

Leading rusher LaJuan Hunt is back for his sophomore season. Hunt had 111 carries for 540 yards and a touchdown, along with 10 catches for 10 catches for 99 yards and a touchdown. Joe Hill has graduated after rushing for 507 yards on 118 carries with 4 touchdowns, and making 7 catches for 148 yards and a touchdown. Rashad Hall is back after rushing for 203 yards on 49 carries with 2 touchdowns. Linebacker Nick Vigil had 41 carries for 152 yards and 3 touchdowns.

Receiver Hunter Sharp is back for his senior season, after making 66 catches for 939 yards and 7 touchdowns. JoJo Natson was dismissed from the team in June though for violating team rules. He had 51 catches for 504 yards and 2 touchdowns. He also rushed for 498 yards on 50 carries with 3 touchdowns, and added two punt returns for touchdowns. Ronald Butler has graduated after making 36 catches for 478 yards and 2 touchdowns, and rushing for 72 yards. He even threw two touchdowns an an interception in 5 pass attempts last year. Devonte Robinson is back after making 24 catches for 226 yards and 2 touchdowns. Tight end Wyatt Houston is also back after making 19 catches for 178 yards and 2 touchdowns.

Four starters are back on the line, and Utah State also added several recruits to add depth. They only allowed 28 sacks, but when three quarterbacks are injured in the same season there were some breakdowns in pass protection.

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Defense

Utah State allowed 356 yards per game on defense, including 225 passing and 131 rushing yards. The Aggies allowed 19.7 points per game. Utah State was #31 or better nationally in total defense, rush defense and points allowed. Defensive coordinator Todd Orlando left for the same job at the University of Houston. Wells hired Hawaii defensive coordinator Kevin Clune as Orlando’s replacement. He had been the Utah State linebackers coach for six seasons before going to Hawaii. Six starters are back on defense.

The Utah State Aggies forced 50 sacks last season. Only one starter is back on the defensive line though. Jordan Nielsen returns at end. Four defensive linemen were injured in a car wreck on the Fourth of July weekend including projected starting tackle Travis Seefeldt, projected starting end John Taylor, and reserves Adewale Adeoye, and Edmund Faimalo. None of the four were wearing seatbelts when the SUV they were riding in was broadsided by a milk tanker truck. All four survived but their status is in question obviously for fall camp and the regular season.

The linebackers also suffered their fair share or injuries last year. Still Vigil and Kyler Fackrell are back after earning All-Mountain West honors. L.T. Filiaga and Torrey Green were able to play significant minutes in 2014 due to injury.

Corners Jalen Davis and Daniel Grey are back. Grey could lose his starting spot to Deshane Hines though. Marwin Evans and Devin Centers will be the starting safeties.

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Special Teams

Kickoff specialist Jake Thompson takes over as the full time kicker. Freshman Aaron Dalton will handle the punting duties. It is unclear who will handle the punt return duties without Natson. Kennedy Williams will return kicks again after averaging 21.6 yards per return.

Schedule

In September,  Utah State hosts Southern Utah before traveling to Pac 12 schools Utah and Washington. October brings home games against Colorado State, Boise State, and Wyoming and road trips to Fresno State and San Diego State. In November, the Aggies travel to New Mexico and Air Force, and host Nevada and BYU to close out the season.

Outlook

Keeton’s health will be the number one priority. When healthy, he is a very dynamic quarterback who was even a dark horse Heisman contender a couple of seasons ago. The defense put up some good numbers despite having to stay on the field for long stretches because of the offensive struggles. The schedule is tough but manageable. I think the Aggies win 7 games and go to a bowl for the fifth straight year.

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