The Utah State Aggies will enter their first game in a cloud of uncertainty. Apparently the general public does not need to know who the starting quarterback is, until he takes the huddle.
This decision hasn’t gained Utah State coach Gary Andersen, or his staff, a ton of well-wishers.
There is no turning back now, unless Andersen has a change of heart, or either candidate, freshman Chuckie Keeton or JUCO transfer Adam Kennedy, is injured during these last few days of preparation before Utah State makes the trip to nationally ranked Auburn.
“The staff and the football team are very comfortable with our quarterback situation. Playing a quality opponent like Auburn, we believe it is important for us to gain every advantage we can. Announcing a starting quarterback could possibly be a disadvantage for our football team,” Andersen said.
Of course, anybody who follows college football in the state of Utah is acutely aware of what happened two seasons ago, when the Utes, coming off of an historic Sugar Bowl run, lost Brian Johnson to graduation and had to find a new replacement.
Then-junior Terrance Cain came into the program on a high of JUCO player of the year awards and big promises, along with a baby faced 17-year-old kid named Jordan Wynn. The thinking among Ute staffers was that Cain could run like the wind and Wynn could throw and lead his team to victory.
Cain was Forrest Gump; Wynn was Keanu Reeves with a little polish. Together they were a dual-headed, multi-talented monster.
But what happened next, if you recall, was a version of College Football Follies that actually played out right before the Aggies’ very eyes.
Cain was named the starter in the season opener against Utah State, and he fumbled, he bumbled play calls, and eventually, he huffed, puffed and blew the Aggies down, but not by much.
The JUCO transfer from Texas played better as that regular season went on, but even he gave way to Wynn, who led the Utes to a Poinsettia Bowl berth and victory and it was Wynn who was named the game’s MVP.
The point is, people derided Utah coach Kyle Whittingham for implementing the two-QB system on The Hill, and while this rant isn’t about the foibles of the Utah football program, it is a warning to the Aggies that having a two-QB system has proven to be a very bad idea.
Case in point: Bronco Mendenhall’s decision to do the same thing last year at BYU, a choice that led to the Aggies first win over the Cougars in decades.
While that win may have had Utah State fans dancing in the streets of tiny Logan, and flipping cars over in wild bonfire celebrations, if only symbolically, it also led to the firing of the Cougars’ offensive coordinator and a paradigm shift in the way BYU does things from a football perspective.
Utah State got a little relief knowing they were able to put up a big middle finger to Riley Nelson for leaving their program like he did, and for exorcising decades of losing to the Cougars in one huge, program-changing game.
Now in the third year of Andersen rebuilding the program, the Aggies seemingly have all the pieces in place for a run at a bowl game, save for that one little annoyance: quarterback.
Chuckie Keeton, as true a freshman as one can be, seems to possess, strangely enough, some of the very attributes that Cain did at Utah and Nelson at the Y. The speed, and the athleticism to create his own plays if need be–though he doesn’t have Terrance’s arm strength, according to team insiders.
Adam Kennedy is more like Jordan Wynn in that he’s a pocket passer who is capable of throwing more than a 15-yard out. The catch is, he has no foot speed, a la Wynn.
It’s almost as if the Aggies have underwent a role reversal here, as JUCO transfer Adam Kennedy possesses many of the once-baby faced Wynn’s same attributes, and not Cain‘s: the arm strength, the leadership are there.
What is not there, is a clear explanation as to why Utah State coach Gary Andersen would not stick to one QB, when he, being a former Ute assistant and seeing his Aggies upset one of two major in-state rivals, is aware of the consequences leading to his decision to play two quarterbacks.
He’s literally seen two years of the misery slammed down both Whittingham’s and Mendenhall’s throats when they implemented this two-headed monstrosity.
Why would he choose to swallow something that frankly seems like such a farce?
Only Andersen can answer that question, while others, like highly touted and now-healthy running back Robert Turbin try to back up the coach in the best way they can. Even Turbin, who did not participate in USU’s shock upset over BYU due to a knee injury, uttered a cautionary tale of his own.
“I believe in the coaching staff. If they believe that for this [Auburn] game a two quarterback system will help us win, then I am all for it, I will buy in and we will see how it goes. I think it can help us. You have got a guy in Adam Kennedy who is obviously more of a pocket passer kind of a guy, to sit back and read coverages. Chuckie Keeton does a little bit of the same but he can also do some dynamic things with his feet and that may be able throw Auburn off a little bit there, kind of subbing in and out quarterbacks. We will see how it goes for the rest of the season. Hopefully it won’t have to be that for the whole season, but if that is what helps us offensively then we will definitely use it throughout the season.”