Players usually don’t participate in Mountain West football media days more than once because coaches like to reward seniors.
Utah State quarterback Chuckie Keeton is a senior, but this is his third trip in a row to The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas for the preseason gabfest with the fourth estate.
He certainly didn’t expect to be here this year, figuring his college career would be over. But Keeton is coming back from a major left knee injury for the second year in a row and has been given a medical redshirt by the NCAA.
Even though Keeton has started just nine games over the previous two seasons combined, he was named to the preseason all-conference team. His ability isn’t the issue. Can he come back without fear of injury in the back of his mind?
“I think me being involved in this past spring and getting every (repetition) every single practice is going to help me out this year,” Keeton said. “I feel ready.”
Utah State coach Matt Wells said he didn’t doubt Keeton’s ability to bounce back.
“There was no knee brace in the spring, and (Keeton) made a few cuts you rewind and watch again, and that’s the old Chuckie,” Wells said.
In his last full season, in 2012, Keeton completed 67.6 percent of his passes for 3,373 yards and 27 touchdowns, and he rushed for 619 yards and eight TDs.
Keeton said he long played with the mindset of trying to get the extra yard, but now knows running out of bounds or sliding on the turf might be wiser while remaining the same dangerous dual threat.
“I can’t say it’s changing (completely how) I play,” Keeton said. “I guess it’s an improved version.”
RAMMING AHEAD — UNLV’s Tony Sanchez isn’t the only first-year coach in the Mountain West.
Colorado State hired Mike Bobo from Georgia, where he had been since 2001. Bobo was the Bulldogs’ quarterbacks coach his first six seasons, then became their offensive coordinator.
Unlike at UNLV, Colorado State’s job opened because of enormous success by the previous coach. Jim McElwain was hired at Florida after coaching the Rams to a 10-3 record that included an appearance in the Las Vegas Bowl.
Colorado State is trying to keep the momentum in its program and will break ground on a new stadium on Sept. 12. Bobo said the program’s upward trajectory helped convince him to take the job.
“You’ve got to have support from your administration for the things you’re trying to do,” Bobo said. “Right there, (the new stadium) told me there’s a commitment to athletics and football.”
The Rams will have to replace quarterback Garrett Grayson and running back Dee Hart. Grayson was the conference Offensive Player of the Year after passing for 4,006 yards and 32 touchdowns, and Hart rushed for 1,275 yards and 16 scores.
“It’s going to be difficult, but I dealt with this a few times at Georgia,” Bobo said.
LAS VEGAS WEST — San Diego State has a distinct Las Vegas feel on its team.
Donnel Pumphrey, who went to Canyon Springs High School, rushed for 1,867 yards and 20 touchdowns last season.
His former high school coach, Hunkie Cooper, is in his first season overseeing the Aztecs’ wide receivers. Cooper is a former UNLV standout.
Fifth-year offensive coordinator Jeff Horton, who coached the Rebels from 1994 to 1998, pushed to hire Cooper.
“I’ve watched (Cooper) coach, and I love his upbeat attitude, his aggressiveness ’¦ how he gets along with players,” San Diego State coach Rocky Long said. “He just fit. Jeff Horton knows those guys very well, and he knows Hunkie very well. When (you’re) the offensive coordinator, you have a lot of influence on who we hire on offense.”
Also moving down Interstate 15 was Bobby Hauck, who resigned as the Rebels’ coach in November. He now is the Aztecs’ special teams coordinator.
“Bobby Hauck is a great football coach,” Long said. “He struggled here at UNLV (15-49), but all you have to do is look at his record (80-17 at Montana). He’s a good guy. He’s smart. He gets along with players very well. I have great respect for him as a football coach, and I think he had several choices, and I think we got very lucky that he came us.”
Contact Mark Anderson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2914. Follow him on Twitter: @markanderson65.