Utah State QB Chuckie Keeton

Utah State Aggies quarterback Chuckie Keeton (16) during the first half of the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl against the Toledo Rockets at Bronco Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Losness-USA TODAY Sports (Brian Losness / June 3, 2014)

 

Utah State’s Chuckie Keeton leads a talented group of players to watch this season in the Mountain West Conference.

Jay Ajayi, RB, Boise State

The Buzz: Ajayi earned first-team, All-Mountain West Conference honors last season after rushing for 1,425 yards and 18 touchdowns for the Broncos. Six times he eclipsed the 100-yard mark in a game including a career-high 222 yards in a win against Nevada on Oct. 19.

Ejiro Ederaine, LB, Fresno State

The Buzz: Ederaine was one of the driving forces behind Fresno State’s attacking defense in 2013 as the team ranked first in the MWC with 40 total sacks. He finished the season ranked third in the conference in sacks (10.0) and tackles for loss (16.5) while registering 63 total tackles for the Bulldogs.

Kyler Fackrell, LB, Utah State

The Buzz: The junior linebacker was third on Utah State’s team with 82 total tackles including a team-leading 13.0 tackles for loss along with 5.0 sacks and one interception. Twice, he registered double-digit tackles including a season-high 12 tackles in a loss to BYU on Oct. 4.

Cody Fajardo, QB, Nevada

The Buzz: Injuries limited Fajardo to just 10 games, but that didn’t stop the Wolf Pack quarterback from finishing the season ranked fourth overall in the league in total offense. The junior passed for 2,668 yards while rushing for another 621 yards in leading Nevada to a four-win season in 2013. Fajardo will have the benefit of having a stocked offense heading into 2014.

Chuckie Keeton, QB, Utah State

The Buzz: Keeton started the first six games of last season before suffering a season-ending knee injury against BYU on Oct. 4. Before the injury, he had tallied more than 1,600 yards of total offense for the Aggies. While he missed spring ball while rehabbing, Keeton’s expected to be back in time for the season and his recovery could be key to Utah State’s chances in the MWC.

Matt Miller, WR, Boise State

The Buzz: New Boise State coach Bryan Harsin plans to implement a more attacking style of offense with the Broncos next season. That’s good news for Miller, who finished third in the league in receiving yards (1,140) and fourth in total receptions (44). He and Shane Williams-Rhoades could be one of the best receiving duos in the Mountain West this season.

Derron Smith, S, Fresno State

The Buzz: Smith earned first-team, All-MWC honors after leading the league in interceptions (7) –tied for fourth overall in the country – while adding 13 passes defended for a Fresno State team that finished last in the league in pass defense. He was third on the team in total tackles (87) including 8.0 tackles for loss and 4.0 sacks.

Jordan Stanton, LB, Wyoming

The Buzz: The Cowboys linebacker was second in the league in total tackles (134) – third overall in the nation – while posting 10 tackles for loss in just his first season at the school after transferring from a junior college in 2012. Six times last season Stanton recorded double-digit tackles including a season-high 18 against Colorado State on Oct. 19.

Shaun Wick, RB, Wyoming

The Buzz: In 12 games last season, Wick rushed for 979 yards and nine touchdowns for the Cowboys. The addition of new coach Craig Bohl from North Dakota State could spell good news for the junior running back. Wyoming is making the switch from the spread to the West Coast offense, which could mean more opportunities in the ground game especially with a new quarterback behind center.

Carlos Wiggins, WR, New Mexico

The Buzz: Wiggins was the country’s top kick returner last season after posting 1,303 yards with the Lobos. His 1,703 all-purpose yards was good enough for first in the league while averaging close to 142 yards per game. He should see a bigger role in New Mexico’s offense this season. 

Matt Murschel can be reached at mmurschel@orlandosentinel.com. Follow him on Twitter at @osmattmurschel.