Logan • The two quarterbacks went through this a year ago — a controversy, a competition — to be the starter at Utah State University.
Chuckie Keeton and Adam Kennedy became friends through the whole thing. Study partners new to USU’s offensive scheme in 2011. Confidants for each other when the tough times hit.
Keeton vs. Kennedy II
Chuckie Keeton » He started for the first half of last season, leading USU to a near upset of Auburn in his first game. Keeton went 11-for-17 for 113 yards and two touchdowns in Saturday’s scrimmage
Adam Kennedy » He led the Aggies to five consecutive wins at the end of the season after Keeton was injured against Hawaii. Kennedy went 5-for-9 for 41 yards and two interceptions on Saturday. Thursday’s scrimmage figures to be critical for both.
Keeton eventually emerged as the star freshman, nearly leading the Aggies to an upset of then- national champ Auburn in his collegiate debut.
Kennedy was looked upon as the savior following Keeton’s injury, quarterbacking Utah State to five consecutive wins and its first bowl appearance in 14 years.
Now, the two are going at it again.
Through last Saturday’s scrimmage, the first big one of fall camp, both are calling this an even race. The dynamics are a bit different, though. Both are established. Local talking heads wonder whether the state’s two best starting quarterbacks reside in Logan. Offensive coordinator Matt Wells said both "deserve to play on Saturdays." Aggies head coach Gary Andersen openly hinted at a two-quarterback system, something that almost never works.
"Sometimes, it is crazy," Kennedy said. "The funny thing is that we’ve always had each others’ backs and have always rooted for one another. It’s been a pretty even competition so far. There’s still a long way to go."
Who will start against Southern Utah University in a few weeks isn’t yet clear. For sure, a winner won’t be named this week. Maybe in about 10 days, Andersen said. Or maybe when the Aggies trot out for warm-ups at Romney Stadium, minutes before the season starts. That’s what USU did a year ago.
They are different quarterbacks with differing abilities, strengths and styles. Keeton is the runner, although he has improved immensely in the offseason in the passing game. He can escape the pocket, make plays with his feet. He’s the definition of a dual-threat quarterback.
Kennedy is more of a gunslinger. He takes chances with his strong arm, is big at 6-foot- 5 and can get the ball down the field. He developed a tight relationship last year with Matt Austin, USU’s top wideout threat. He’s also known for leading the Aggies to big comebacks.
Fans, media and coaches know it’s a difficult choice. Keeton’s skill and dynamic talent have become tough to ignore, as is the fact that he’s a sophomore and will lead Utah State into the Mountain West Conference next year.
But a 5-1 record as a starter is difficult to overlook for Kennedy. He’s a senior now, and has demonstrated a deep understanding of USU’s new spread offense.
"We were talking about that the other day," Keeton said. "We’re such different quarterbacks, and we do things so differently. We both want to win. We both want to be the guy. And we both know that this is up for grabs. At the same time, we have to be professional about this. We want to be the guy, but we also have to want what’s best for the team. I personally have to remember that it’s not all about me."
Football is a sport based on production. The two have gone back and forth in camp. Keeton slightly injured his knee last week in practice, enabling Kennedy to take all of the snaps with the first team, and he played well.
Saturday’s scrimmage told a different story. Keeton went 11-for-17 through the air for 113 yards and two touchdowns, including a gorgeous 50- yard pass and catch for a touchdown to Travis Van Leeuwen. Kennedy struggled, going 5-for-9 for 41 yards, two interceptions and no touchdown passes.
"There’s some separation in some of the things they do, but not enough to make a decision," Wells said. "I have to say, they’ve both handled it well, both in the spring and in the summer. Both are competing for this spot, but not at each other. They want to play the best they can play each day. They want to get better the next day."
The next two weeks will be critical for both. Utah State plans to scrimmage Thursday, its last major scrimmage of camp. Each practice and film session is important. Keeton and Kennedy both have their strengths.
The coaching staff has to figure out which strength is best for USU’s offense.
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