Black QB in Utah Shows Poise Beyond His Years
Written by Melvin Jones, special to Blackamericaweb.com Tuesday, 04 October 2011 10:47
A normal true freshman quarterback doesn't go to Auburn and burn the defending national champions for two touchdowns.
A normal true freshman quarterback would usually have an interception or three to his credit by the fourth game of the season.
So far, however, Chuckie Keeton has proven to be anything but usual.
Keeton, the starter for Utah State University (USU), and a rookie out of Houston, has been a revelation this year. At 6-foot-2, 195 pounds, Keeton has shredded secondaries with his feet and his arm. He's thrown four touchdowns, hasn't tossed an interception, and has led a resurgent USU program.
Keeton is currently the only African-American starting quarterback in the state of Utah, which includes major college programs at Brigham Young (BYU), the University of Utah, Weber State and Southern Utah.
The Aggies are currently 1-3. But they've let three fourth-quarter leads slip away, yet Keeton is a big reason that Utah State's been in position to win games.
“He has a chance to be special,” USU offensive coordinator Dave Baldwin said. “He's mature, and he has all the tools.”
With Keeton battling junior college transfer Adam Kennedy for the starting spot throughout fall camp, the Utah State coaching staff had every intention of playing both guys in USU’s season-opening 42-38 loss at Auburn. Gary Andersen had every intention of letting the quarterback competition play out in Week 1 against real competition.
Instead, Keeton stole the show and locked up the starting role.
“We have one quarterback,” Andersen said.
Keeton, from Houston, led his offense up and down the field against the Tigers. He ran twice on fourth down, scoring once and gaining a first down on a quarterback keeper. And going against Andersen’s mantra of simply having a “game manager” to direct his offense, Keeton looked like a star.
And for his exploits, Keeton was named the Rivals.com national freshman of the week.
“I really wasn’t too nervous,” Keeton said. “I knew that guys around me had my back. I just came in as focused as I could be and tried to get the ball into the hands of our receivers. Ultimately, we just didn’t do what we needed to do.”
Through no fault of Keeton’s, USU blew a 10-point lead in the final stages of what would’ve been one of the biggest wins in school history. Still, while not many saw Keeton bursting onto the college football platform the way he did, the signs were there.
In July, at the Western Athletic Conference media day, Robert Turbin named Keeton when he was asked which quarterback had stood out over the summer between Keeton, Kennedy and Alex Hart.
Before July, the talk among the Aggies centered on how quickly Keeton came in and successfully learned the playbook.
Learning the playbook quickly and effectively, when it was thought he would need time to grasp the system, put Keeton in position to compete from the outset of preseason practice. Being physical in scrimmages and practice threw the spotlight on how aggressive, confident and competitive Keeton has turned out to be.
Indeed, his best trait thus far has turned out to be his calm in the face of pressure. Against the Tigers, Keeton consistently made the right reads for first downs in the face of the Auburn blitz. He showed the ability to escape the pocket, to find the hot route and to make throws on the run.
During one preseason practice, Andersen had his defense blitz Keeton on 22 consecutive plays, just to test the rookie. Baldwin was harsh with Keeton in public, but privately gushed about his freshman, saying that he was going to be “special.””
As it turns out, Keeton may have arrived, sooner rather than later.
“We kept waiting for Chuckie to hit a wall, but he never did,” Andersen said. “While most freshmen plateau a bit as camp goes on, Chuckie just got better.”