This offseason we will count down various topics from Monday through Friday, bringing you the top five of the important and definitely some not so important issues in college football. It's the Doc Five, every week until we will thankfully have actual games to discuss.
The San Antonio Spurs suffered an absolutely devastating loss in the 2013 NBA Finals. After taking a 3-2 series lead, the Spurs were up five points and were just 28 seconds away from winning it all in Game 6. Improbably, the Heat came back to win in overtime, forcing Game 7. The Spurs struggled to rebound from the crushing Game 6 defeat, and the Heat prevailed in Game 7 behind 37 points from LeBron James.
It was a different story this year.
In a Final rematch, it took just five games for the Spurs to dominate the Heat and win the franchise’s fifth title in 15 years on Sunday night.
The Spurs’ impressive rebound got us thinking for this week’s Doc Five. What players who suffered considerable setbacks in 2013 could be prime candidates to come back strong in 2014?
We'll start with the offensive side of the ball.
TOP FIVE PLAYERS POISED FOR A COMEBACK IN 2014
No. 2: Chuckie Keeton, QB, Utah State
Over the past two seasons, Chuckie Keeton has been the most anonymous good quarterback in college football.
As a junior last season, Keeton was putting up exceptional numbers for Utah State through the first five games of the season. In the sixth, against BYU, Keeton's knee twisted awkwardly. He said he knew pretty quickly it was a serious knee injury. But he didn't cuss.
"The thing is, I've had a few tweaks in my knee, I've dealt with pain before and the pain has always been temporary," he told the Deseret News. "So I knew I could get through it. "But when I hit the ground, I knew it was something different; I knew it wasn't normal pain. So immediately, I started to panic a little bit; I was yelling a lot, so that wasn't good. But I didn't cuss, which is a good thing — I kept my integrity.
"When I got up, I knew I wasn't really walking that easily and I knew I had a lot of instability in my knee, because when I hit the ground and I kind of rolled over and my leg just kind of fell," Keeton said. "As soon as I got up and I saw my guys around me, I was definitely OK and all that. Of course, I was still hurting, but I knew everything would be OK.
"Sure, it was the end of my football season, but I knew at one point there would be better things to come, and I've got one more year so I'm looking forward to that."
Keeton tore his ACL and was out for the rest of the season. After losing to the Cougars and its first game without Keeton, the Aggies went on a five-game winning streak before falling to Fresno State in the Mountain West Championship Game by a touchdown.
And after an upset of Jordan Lynch and Northern Illinois in the Poinsettia Bowl, Keeton's presence makes Utah a sleeper candidate in 2014. Even if they can still be considered one at this point.
In 2012, his last full season, Keeton was 275-407 passing for 3.373 yards, 27 touchdowns and nine interceptions. He also had 619 yards rushing and eight touchdowns as Utah State finished the year a school-recor 11-2, lost to Wisconsin by two and BYU by three.
His – and Utah State's – performance got the attention of many in and closely around college football. But by playing for a non-power conference team and the third-most popular football team in the 34th most populous state, Keeton wasn't a household name.
Through five-plus games in 2013, his passing stats were as good as they were the previous year. While his yards-per-attempt were down, his completion percentage was up and had thrown 18 touchdows to two interceptions. But the knee injury kept his profile down.
Heck, if you're looking for a player like Lynch in 2014, your first choice should be Keeton because an undefeated or one-loss season isn't out of the question for Utah State, especially if the Aggies take care of Tennessee in the season-opener at Neyland Stadium. (Early hint, that's our week one upset special, even if the "upset" may only be reflected in the line on the game.)
After that, the two toughest games are at BYU and Boise State. And while both are still good programs, neither are at the heights they were at a few years ago. Utah State won't be longshots in either.
We will offer this word of warning. ACL injuries can be tricky, especially for a quarterback that will be less than 11 months from the original injury when the season begins. It wouldn't be surprising for Keeton to take a couple games to acclimatize. But if Keeton comes out at full-strength and beat Tennessee? Watch out. Keeton won't certainly be unnoticed any longer.
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