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Las Vegas • With most of the skill positions promising an injection of depth and talent, the one question that's dogged Utah State for the spring and summer focused on just who will play at quarterback.
Less than two weeks from the start of fall camp, Gary Andersen still can't answer that question. In fact, there's a twist: Instead of the competition for that spot dwindling, the candidate pool has just grown a bit larger.
Andersen, at Thursday's Western Athletic Conference media day in Las Vegas, announced that the quarterback race now includes three people, with incoming true freshman Chuckie Keeton the man crashing the party.
It promises to be a swift competition once camp starts, Andersen said. There will be a scrimmage about two weeks into camp. Andersen will name a starter, and that person will take the reps heading into the season opener at Auburn.
"I don't want this to last long at all," he said.
What is certain is whomever lands the QB job will not have thrown a single pass at the major Division I level. First, there's Keeton, the scrambler from Houston who has impressed with his knowledge of the playbook.
He's a clone of former star Diondre Borel, who just signed a free-agent deal with the Green Bay Packers. Then there's former Jordan star Alex Hart, the redshirt freshman who has coaches loving his intangibles and his ability to run the offense and make plays.
And finally, there's Adam Kennedy, the 6-foot-5 prototype with the rocket arm.
Hart and Kennedy battled it out during the spring, with little to no separation. But Andersen said Hart is far ahead of schedule in terms of strength and maturity, and those attributes have been more than enough to make him a prime option.
"I feel like I can win the job," Hart said Thursday. "Me, Adam and Chuckie are good friends, but in the end, this is what we're all here for. Chuckie's been impressive. He's come in knowing the offense pretty well. At the same time, it's going to be tough for him to make up for what me and Adam have done in the spring."
The starter looks to have plenty of weapons around him. Utah State was probably one of the most injured teams in the country last season. The flip side is that many of the injured are returning, including Robert Turbin, the star running back from two years ago. Matt Austin, Stanley Morrison, Michael Smith and Kellen Bartlett also return from injuries that cost them a season.
What it adds up to is uncommon, at least for the Aggies, depth at most of the positions. The starter at quarterback won't have to go out and win games by himself, much in the way Borel had to last season. The starter will only have to manage games and make plays when needed.
"We have to help our quarterback out," Turbin said. "We have to make plays for him. We need to take screens and turn them into touchdowns. When other teams play zone, we need our receivers to read that, and make the right read inside of the zone."
In his 25 minutes of addressing the media, Andersen talked about the need for his team to be consistent. He spoke of USU's past lack of muscle and depth on both lines, and of the need for his players to make game-changing plays.
"We didn't have the consistency last year that we needed to win football games," hesaid. "What's the difference between 4-8 and where we want to be? A lot. We have to close that gap and do the things that are needed in order for us to be successful."
In what was a laid back atmosphere at the Orleans Hotel, Hawaii was picked to win the WAC, while USU was picked to finish fifth. The Aggies, however, received a single first-place vote, and senior linebacker Bobby Wagner was picked as the pre-season Defensive Player of the Year.
A look at Utah State
• The Aggies have finished 4-8 each of the past two years.
• Running back Robert Turbin is back from a season-ending knee injury.
• Bobby Wagner is the WAC preseason Defensive Player of the Year.