A Way Too Early Preview: Utah State Edition

Utah State Football Preview

I’m not going to pretend that I can talk about Utah State Football with objective, unbiased frame of mind, because that’s just not going to be the case. Now, this isn’t quite me talking about UGA Football (in which case the article would just be a bunch of slobber, GIFs, and trash talk) but, it’s on you to sift through the gushing to find the facts – and that’s just how it’s gonna be.

For me, it all starts with Coach Matt Wells – who I really am shocked is still at Utah State. Not one, not two, but three quarterbacks went down for the Aggies in 2014 before they finally found a guy who wasn’t made of paper, and even he left the battlefield briefly in the school’s bowl game.

To recap:

1St String QB: Chuckie Keeton – lost for season in Week 3 to knee injury (2-1 record as starter)

2nd String QB: Darrell Garretson – lost for season in Week 7 to wrist injury (2-2 record as starter)

3rd String QB: Craig Harrison – lost for season in Week 8 to knee injury (1-0 record as starter)

4th String QB: Kent Myers – he made it!!! (5-1 record as starter)

*Myers actually was lost for about a half a quarter in the bowl game against UTEP and wide receiver Ronald Butler entered as quarterback, rushing for 69 yards during his time at the helm and leading the team to a key third quarter scoring drive. I only mention that because it’s awesome that the team was on its 5th string QB for a while, and still functionally operating.

I don’t think it’s debatable that these results are incredibly impressive, but rather the real question is why Wells isn’t more of a sensation nationally. I brought up Wells to ESPN’s Travis Haney, on Twitter, shortly after he wrote an article about low cost college football coaches (the concept of making a coach earn that big pay day, and if this can possibly be an effective route to produce a championship program.)

Haney Final

Knew I could count on Travis for some solid insight! I think both points he makes are salient: the Oklahoma jobs would definitely be tempting, intriguing fits, however Wells is more than likely to have found a new home before one of those Stoops or Gundy rumors finally comes to fruition.

I think that the true testament to Wells’ talent isn’t so much the record, but how well he molded the offense to each of his quarterback’s strengths. While, from a fantasy perspective this made owning any individual skill player in the offense a real peaks and valleys type trip, it was remarkable to watch the team mold and evolve from week to week. Before, I get too deep into thoughts on individual players for this upcoming season though, let’s quickly recap what has been a very eventful offseason for the Aggies:

  • Early on in January, rumors started to circulate that Chuckie Keeton might follow the coach that recruited him, Gary Anderson, to Oregon State. Obviously, this was very believable since Chuckie could instantly play, as a grad transfer, would be a great fit for the system, and faced a presumably difficult battle for the top spot at Utah State this Spring.
  • News emerged via Fantrax, and really nowhere else, that Jojo Natson might compete this year with LaJuan Hunt for the running back spot (in reality, I’m thinking this is more speculation than anything else.)
  • Spring ball begins, and everyone’s favorite 4th string quarterback, Kent Myers, is flying all over the field….as a wide receiver. Just so it doesn’t come off as I’m leaving this open to interpretation – the answer is yes – I DO think it’s more impressive that Matt Wells got ten wins out of four different QBs than it is that Urban used black magic to cop that National Championship…
  • Former 4th string QB Kent Myers moved to wide receiver, per Spring ball reports
  • Tragically, American hero Darrell Garretson let it be known this past Wednesday that he will be transferring. I planned on devoting a large percentage of this article to singing Garretson’s praises, but sadly, he’ll be off the Fantasy radar for 2015 (though this celebration definitely remains on my radar for the next time I’m playing an intramural league…)

Alright, now, focusing on 2015, I think the best way to cover the many fantasy relevant commodities in the Utah State program is to just go player by player:

Chuckie Keeton

The Chuckie Keeton story has been full of highs (almost beating Auburn his freshman year, throwing up insane numbers in 2012 and half of 2013) and lows (shredding his knee in 2013, clearly not being back to full strength in 2014) over his four years as an Aggie. Fortunately, after being granted a fifth year, things are really looking up for Chuckie. He’s been looking great in Spring Practice and his chief competition (my dude, previously noted above) is transferring, presumably because he doesn’t want to waste a year of eligibility fruitlessly competing against a fully healthy Chuckie. Health is really the only question here, as the talent, and surrounding pieces are undeniable, but early signs point towards Chuckie going out with a bang in his redshirt senior year. Top 10-15 QB upside is certainly in play here, and he can probably be had at a discount considering recent history.

Damion Hobbs

The Oregon transfer sat out this past year and now is looking like he’ll be the guy you want to own as a handcuff if you’re drafting Chuckie. He’s obviously got talent, but if Chuckie is healthy (obviously, at least a modest IF) he won’t be seeing the field this year. DG The First transferring probably guarantees Hobbs the job in 2016 though, making him a nice late round pick in Dynasty leagues this year.

LaJuan Hunt

Hunt burst on the season last season against Hawaii, racking up over 30 carries and close to 150 yerds in his debut as the starting running back. Many of made the understandable inference that this was a sign of things to come. Unfortunately, this proved to be by far Hunt’s biggest game (thanks largely in part to the adaptation of Utah State’s game plan to incorporate more of the guy highlighted below.) I think it’s fair to make the assumption that Hunt will have to battle for significant playing time this year, and even if he gets it, he will likely be in a heavy time share. I have a tough time seeing a scenario in which he becomes an every week fantasy starter, though in my NCAA Football ’14 (2015 season) that I just played, Hunt led the nation is rushing touchdowns and was top 5 in rushing yards. So, take that for what it’s worth (essentially nothing.)

By the way, this seems an appropriate time to give props to those guys over at Operation Sports that are twisted enough to compile updated rosters for the 2015 season, and make them readily available for public download (for free.) They do an amazingly thorough job keeping this would-be-debunk franchise ongoing and deserve international acclaim for their humanitarian efforts. Today, we are all sociopaths.

JoJo Natson

Fair warning: depending on your research source or fantasy website of choice, you may see his name appear as Bruce Natson. This is one of my favorite college fantasy football quirks that we see year after year: a player appearing in multiple databases with different names causing confusion, particularly when trying to identify live rooting interests. My favorite example, you’ll of course remember, was Demaryius Thomas going by the name “Bey Bey Thomas” while at Georgia Tech. Truly, a tradition unlike any other.

Anyway, Natson’s stock is very interesting for me this year. If he really is competing for the starting running back spot, and wins the gig, that would be a nice Easter Egg considering his WR eligibility. Unlike with LaJuan Hunt, I’d expect that if Natson got the job, he’d probably see 10-15 carries to go with 5+ catches a game – and considering his game breaking jukes, that’s more than enough to give him significant fantasy value. However, if we get word that he’s going to play mostly, or exclusively at wide receiver this year, I’m downgrading him significantly relative to his value at the end of last season. I believe that a lot of what Natson did down the stretch last year was a function of the team playing with a fourth string QB, and having to find ways to force the ball into playmakers’ hands, without the luxury of having a true downfield passing game. This made Natson an obvious candidate for a large role in the team’s weekly game plan – with his ability to take handoffs, or short passes and make them into explosive plays. With Chuckie back at the helm though, I expect Utah State to rely more on the passing game, and less on Natson. This jives pretty well with Natson’s game log, as you’ll note that he only really took off after both Keeton and Garretson went down.

Hunter Sharp

Sharp’s game log highlights the exact opposite trends as Natson. The dude was an absolute beast, bordering on must-start-regardless-of-price status in DFS games for a while, until Garretson went down. However, without a truly competent passer calling the shots, Sharp’s stats took a complete nose dive down the stretch. This is good for us though, as I expect him to be undervalued in drafts, and on DFS sites early in the season. Obviously, you need to take Spring stats with a huge grain of salt, but I was very encouraged to read that in the school’s most recent scrimmage, Chuckie Keeton hit Sharp for two long scoring plays. He’s clearly the team’s best receiver, and if we can agree that a fully healthy Chuckie pushes for 3,500-4,000 passing yards, I think it’s safe to lock in Sharp for 80 grabs, 1,100 + yards, and 10 scores – and I think that’s being fairly conservative.

“1,700 words on Utah State Football – really Andrew? Couldn’t you pick a Power Five team?”

Listen, Casual Fan, I’m not writing for you, I’m writing for the die-hard fantasy college football player that is banging his head against his parents’ basement wall because he can’t understand why there’s not more readily available in depth Fantasy College Football research available to the public. Fantasy College Football really is the rarest of the rare right now in 2015: a niche Fantasy Sports segment. Generally speaking, the Fantasy Sports market is so incredibly saturated – there’s an opinion on every possible argument, and at least ten counter viewpoints to that original opinion. Not College Fantasy Football though, and that’s what makes it so much fun to write about.

Really though, Oh My Brothers, for Bog’s sake, I hope you chellovecks enjoyed this and, I strongly suggest that you advocate for your “roommates” to keep forking over the pretty polly for that internet bill. Don’t want you to have to itty on down to the biblio just to read the latest on this wonderful web site.

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