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Logan • Utah State quarterback Chuckie Keeton joked at the Mountain West Conference media days that he has been entertaining himself by cutting and juking around his teammates in hallways, in the training room and anywhere else he might have a chance to polish his moves now that his surgically repaired knee feels normal.
On Tuesday he finally had a chance to show off his moves as the Aggies opened fall camp with a two-hour effort that included emphasis on the offensive line, special team drills and, yes, lots of action by Keeton.
No one was more pleased than Keeton to not only be on the field but moving on his leg as well as he'd hoped to be.
"I was doing more dancing out there than anything, just glad to be back," he said.
The last time Keeton was on the field in an official capacity was against BYU on Oct. 4, when he was tackled just as he planted with his left foot in an effort to avoid a defender with one of his usual shifty moves. Instead his left knee buckled, sending him first to the turf, then to the training room, where he endured long hours of rehab.
His goal was to get back on the field as strong as he possibly could. Judging by Tuesday's practice, he succeeded.
Keeton's footwork seemed as strong as usual and his timing with his receivers, something he was worried about, looked spot on for much of the practice. He hooked up with JoJo Natson on a 40-yarder then hit Damoun Patterson for a similar gain.
Keeton went through the session with a brace on his left knee, a decision that he said he made for comfort.
"Tom Brady wears one too and he isn't too bad," he said of the New England quarterback. "So I thought I'd be all right in one."
Keeton said he hasn't thought much about what happened the night of his injury, caring more to focus on the good that came out of it.
"Why spoil it with my injury?" he said. "That's how I looked at it. I'm really more proud of what everyone else did. I understand that I was somewhat of a big piece and that it was emotional when I went down, but the guys found a way to bounce back after my injury and the injuries of the other guys and come back and win a bowl game and have a chance at winning a championship, which may not have happened at other schools."
Nevertheless, having him back is huge for the Aggies, as noticed by the wide smile on coach Matt Wells' face following practice.
"I thought he looked sharp," he said. "Honestly I think he has taken a step ahead of where he was last year."
Wells said he believes Keeton is better for the time he spent on the field and in the box, giving him a different perspective of the game.
While that might be the case, Keeton certainly prefers the view he has now.
"It's just a blessing to be out there," he said.
Utah State Camp roundup
O Who looked hot • Quarterbacks Chuckie Keeton and Darell Garretson looked solid in their first day of practice. Garretson's arm looked strong with several long throws while Keeton's footwork was sharp.
What to watch for next • Coach Wells was slow to talk up the defense, saying it wasn't a "defensive practice with quick whistles," he is waiting for the "real" practices to start before rating the guys.
Up next • Practice on Wednesday at 2:15 p.m.