Boise, Idaho • Usually, a mid-major program with a hot year has to start over again because of heavy losses to graduation and a coach heading for the greener pastures of a BCS-conference school.
The opposite appears to be true for Utah State.
No. 18 USU loses key players like running back Kerwynn Williams, cornerback Will Davis, receiver Matt Austin and linebacker Bojay Filimoeatu. But the Aggies return most of their interior lines, offensively and defensively. They return the majority of their secondary, and their linebacking core remains largely intact.
Oh, yes. A certain quarterback named Chuckie Keeton and a certain coach named Gary Andersen will both be in Logan next season. Because of this, the USU program appears to have staying power.
“When you start a conversation on the best quarterbacks in the country for next season, I would hope that conversation doesn’t get too far without Chuckie Keeton’s name being mentioned,” Andersen said. “I think he’s one of the premier quarterbacks in the nation.”
On Saturday night, Utah State completed the best year in school history with a 41-15 win over Toledo in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl in Boise. With the victory, the Aggies finish the season 11-2, nationally ranked and two missed kicks away from being perfect.
In 2013, Utah State stands a good chance of being ranked in the preseason. The Aggies have a schedule that features Utah, BYU and USC. And they have a good opportunity to compete for — and maybe even win — the Mountain West Conference title in their first season in the league. Utah State leaves the Western Athletic Conference as the outright champion.
Andersen said he would take a few weeks off, and then get back to it. The remainder of December and the month of January will be important from a recruiting perspective, and the Aggies are involved with a number of talented high school and junior college guys with a few scholarships left to give.
“A lot of us seniors are leaving, but the depth and the talent of this program is there,” Williams said. “We have a lot of talent running through, and we’re going to keep getting better. This isn’t finished.”