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Mountain West has respect for Aggies

Published July 23, 2013 8:52 am

College football • Utah State picked to finish 2nd in division.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Las Vegas • With dangerous pass rushers only feet away, Chuckie Keeton felt no pressure.

At Mountain West media day, after all, there are no pads, no helmets and no tackling.

In a few months, other attendees will be scrambling to pound the Utah State quarterback into the turf. On Monday, they wore polo shirts and khakis and made idle conversation over pizza and caesar salad.

"Now I know that they are human," Keeton said, "and not trying to hit me at all times."

The Utah State football team is wading into deeper, more dangerous waters this fall against the Mountain West. But even in July, with games more than a month out, the Aggies are already seen as one of the sharks.

A preseason media poll judged Utah State the second-best team in the conference's Mountain Division, just behind Boise State. And even the Broncos are looking on the Aggies as a potential threat.

Offensive lineman Charles Leno watched the Aggies topple Toledo on Boise State's home field in the Idaho Potato Bowl last year. Utah State left an impression.

"We know they're a quality program," Leno said. "I know they've still got a lot of players back, and I got to meet some of them. Those guys are top-of-the-line quality guys."

The Aggies' excitement as a conference newcomer was met with the same sentiment from other Mountain West programs. The conference's media day offered players and coaches a chance to fist pump an eventful and fruitful offseason: adding Utah State and San Jose State; retaining San Diego State and Boise State; securing games on ESPN and adding a conference championship.

Entering his first year at San Jose State, coach Rod Caragher said even since he was hired months ago, the Mountain West improved his job.

"It's all kind of fitting together nice," he said. "I know the landscape of college athletics is always changing, but I hope the stability and consistency is here for a long time."

In a conference of dangerous quarterbacks, Utah State has one in Chuckie Keeton. He'll remain the Aggies' most versatile offensive weapon, but he's also a valuable practice partner when the team will face such potent passers as San Jose State's David Fales, Boise State's Joe Southwick, and Wyoming's Brett Smith in conference play.

"We have six quarterbacks in this league, and each one of them has potential to go to the next level," linebacker Nick Vigil said. "It's really going to be a benefit to us

But Utah State's other returners also make the Aggies a threat.

Offensive lineman Tyler Larsen landed on the preseason all-Mountain West team, one of five returning starters. And linebacker Kyler Fackrell was one of three returning starting linebackers, part of the Aggies stout front.

They'll be a target to some as well: Utah State has beaten Colorado State, Wyoming, San Jose State, Hawai'i and UNLV at least once in the last two seasons. All are on the schedule this year.

"Honestly, it was such a blur with them running us around, so I can't remember who was their best guy or anything," Fales said of the looming ESPN-televised rematch. "But I'm definitely looking forward to seeing them again."

kgoon@sltrib.com

Twitter: @kylegoon —

MWC MEDIA POLL

Mountain Division

1st • Boise State 245 (40)

2nd • Utah State 204 (1)

3rd • Air Force 143

4th •Â Wyoming 116

5th •Â Colorado State 90

6th • New Mexico 63

West Division

1st • Fresno State 243 (39)

2nd • San Diego State 181 (1)

3rd • San Jose State 172 (1)

4th • Nevada 135

5th • UNLV 71

6th • Hawai'i 59 MWC PRESEASON ALL-CONFERENCE

Offense

QB          Derek Carr *                                     Sr.           Fresno State

WR          Davante Adams *                            So.          Fresno State
WR          Noel Grigsby                                    Sr.           San Jose State

RB           Kasey Carrier **                               Sr.           New Mexico

RB           Adam Muema **                              Jr.            San Diego State

OL           Charles Leno **                               Sr.           Boise State
OL           Matt Paradis *                                   Sr.           Boise State

OL           Weston Richburg                             Sr.           Colorado State

OL           Austin Wentworth *                          Sr.           Fresno State

OL           Tyler Larsen                                     Sr.           Utah State

TE           Marcel Jensen                                 Sr.           Fresno State

 

 Defense

DL           Demarcus Lawrence *                   Jr.            Boise State

DL           Tyeler Davison *                              Jr.            Fresno State

DL           Brock Hekking **                             Jr.            Nevada

DL           Travis Raciti                                      Jr.            San Jose State

LB           Jake Fely **                                      Jr.            San Diego State

LB           Keith Smith                                       Sr.           San Jose State

LB           Kyler Fackrell                                   So.          Utah State

DB          L.J. Jones                                          Sr.           Fresno State

DB          Derron Smith *                                 Jr.            Fresno State

DB          Nat Berhe **                                     Sr.           San Diego State

DB          Bené Benwikere                              Sr.           San Jose State

 

 Specialists

P             Ben Skaer                                         Sr.           New Mexico

PK           Austin Lopez                                    So.          San Jose State

Ret.         Chase Clayton                                 Jr.            New Mexico

 

Preseason Offensive Player of the Year: Derek Carr, Sr., QB, Fresno State

Preseason Defensive Player of the Year: Derron Smith, Jr., DB, Fresno State

Preseason Special Teams Player of the Year: Chase Clayton, Jr., KR, New Mexico