Along with Keeton, Utah State had three other players named to the league’s 25-player preseason first-team as senior defensive end B.J. Larsen, senior linebacker Zach Vigil and junior linebacker Kyler Fackrell were all recognized.
Other preseason player of the year honors include Fresno State senior defensive back Derron Smith, who was named the MW’s Preseason Defensive Player of the Year, and New Mexico junior Carlos Wiggins, who was named the MW’s Preseason Special Teams Player of the Year.
Entering his senior season, Keeton, a 6-2, 200-pound quarterback from Houston, Texas (Cypress Creek HS), is also one of 25 college football players named to the first edition of the 2014 Heismanpundit/CBSSports.com Heisman Trophy Watch List, one of 17 players named to the 2014 Bleacher Report's Initial Heisman Trophy Watch List, one of 39 players named to the Davey O'Brien National Quarterback Award Watch List, one of 77 players named to the Maxwell Award Watch List, one of 40 players named to the College Football Performance Awards Quarterback of the Year Watch List, and a first-team preseason all-Mountain West selection by both Athlon Sports and Phil Steele.
Keeton was one of 30 players named to the first edition of the 2013 Heismanpundit/CBSSports.com Heisman Trophy Watch List as a junior a year ago, but played in just six games before suffering a season-ending knee injury in the first quarter against BYU on Oct. 4. Prior to his injury, Keeton had completed 136-of-196 passes for 1,388 yards (231.3 ypg) with 18 touchdowns and just two interceptions, while rushing for another 241 yards on 55 carries (402. ypg/4.4 ypc) with two more scores. Overall, that completion percentage of 69.4 percent broke his own single-season school record set in 2012, while his 18 touchdown passes rank tied for ninth all-time in school history.
Utah State was picked to finish second in the Mountain Division of the 2014 Mountain West Conference preseason polls.
Boise State was tabbed as the preseason favorite in the Mountain Division as they garnered 20 first-place votes and 183 points after finishing the 2013 season with a 6-2 MW mark (8-5 overall) and playing in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl. USU received 12 first-place votes and 176 points for second-place in the Mountain Division, followed by Colorado State who received one first-place vote and 135 points. Wyoming was picked fourth with 90 points, followed by New Mexico (56 pts.) and Air Force (53 pts.).
Defending league champion Fresno State was the preseason favorite in the West Division with 15 first-place votes and 174 points after finishing 2013 with a 7-1 MW mark (11-2 overall) and playing in the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl. San Diego State was second with 15 first-place votes and 172 points, while Nevada was tabbed third with three first-place votes and 130 points. UNLV was picked fourth with 95 points, followed by San Jose State (87 pts.) and Hawai’i (35 pts.).
Utah State returns 14 starters (O-6, D-5, S-3) as part of 38 letterwinners (O-17, D-18, S-3) from last year's 9-5 team that won the Mountain Division of the Mountain West Conference in its first year in the league, played in the inaugural Mountain West Championship game and defeated No. 24 Northern Illinois, 21-14, in the 2013 San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl.
Utah State will open the 2014 season on Sunday, Aug. 31 at Tennessee and play its first home game the following weekend against Idaho State on Saturday, Sept. 6 at 6 p.m.