|Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press|
|Utah State QB Chuckie Keeton is looking to bounce back from a 2013 season-ending knee injury.|
The copycat nature of the NFL will lead coaches and scouts to search for the next big thing at the collegiate level. With Russell Wilson guiding the Seattle Seahawks to Super Bowl title, evaluators are searching far and wide for young, athletic signal-callers with dynamic ability within the pocket. While everyone is familiar with the big-name guys like Oregon's Marcus Mariota and UCLA's Brent Hundley, there are some scouts on the West Coast touting Utah State's Chuckie Keeton as a sleeper candidate to watch in the fall.
Listed at 6-2, 200 pounds, Keeton is certainly not the imposing presence of Mariota or Hundley, but is an efficient dual-threat playmaker with an impressive resume. He completed over 69 percent of his passes and posted an 18:2 touchdown-to-interception ratio in a solid junior campaign that was cut short due to an ACL injury. In addition, Keeton displayed the mobility and elusiveness to flee the pocket under duress, while maintaining the awareness, poise and savvy to make pinpoint throws down the field. With NFL teams becoming increasingly comfortable with a run-pass threat in the backfield, Keeton's skills as a mobile playmaker fit the mold of the "new school" quarterback that's taking over the league.
Of course, skeptics will question whether Keeton's game will translate well to the pros due to the extensive use of bubble screen, pop passes and other quick-rhythm throws featured in the Aggies' version of the spread. But his solid performances against the likes of Utah and San Jose State prior to his season-ending injury will pique the interest of scouts looking for a developmental prospect at the position. Moreover, Keeton's consistent production over a two-year period suggests that he is a dependable player at the position, which keyed the rise to prominence of Fresno State's Derek Carr and San Jose State's David Fales in the eyes of scouts a season ago.
If Keeton can successfully bounce back from his ACL injury and flash some of the form that led an NFC North scout to tell me that the Utah State quarterback "might be the best in the West" a season ago, there might be a host of scouts making the trek to Logan this fall to take a look at one of the draft's best-kept secrets.
Follow Bucky Brooks on Twitter @BuckyBrooks.