LAS VEGAS, Nev. — Utah State senior linebacker Kyler Fackrell was named the Mountain West’s Preseason Defensive Player of the Year, it was announced Tuesday at the league’s annual Media Days held at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas.
Besides Fackrell, the Aggies had two other student-athletes named to the league’s 25-player preseason first-team as redshirt senior quarterback Chuckie Keeton and junior linebacker Nick Vigil were also recognized.
The preseason all-conference team, as selected by members of the media, features 18 student-athletes who were all-Mountain West selections in 2014, including nine first-team honorees. The 25-member squad is comprised of 17 seniors, seven juniors and one sophomore.
Colorado State junior wide receiver Rashard Higgins was named Preseason Mountain West Offensive Player of the Year, while San Diego State senior placekicker Donny Hageman garnered Special Teams Player of the Year honors.
Fackrell is also on the Rotary Lombardi Award Watch List, Butkus Award Watch List and Chuck Bednarik Watch List. He is a 2015 preseason Phil Steele and Athlon Sports first-team all-Mountain West selection, as well.
Fackrell played in just one game as a junior in 2014 as he suffered a season-ending knee injury in the second quarter of the season-opener at Tennessee.
Following the 2013 season, the 6-foot-5, 250-pounder was named an honorable mention Sophomore All-American by College Football News and earned second-team all-Mountain West honors as he finished the year ranking first on the team with 13.0 tackles for loss, tied for first with two forced fumbles and second with his 5.0 sacks, while ranking fourth on the team with 82 total tackles (37-solo, 45-assist). Overall, Fackrell averaged 5.9 tackles per game to rank 35th in the Mountain West.
During the season, Fackrell recorded three quarterback hurries, recovered one fumble, intercepted one pass and registered one pass breakup. He was named the Mountain West’s Defensive Player of the Week and College Football Performance Awards National Linebacker of the Week following USU’s 47-10 home win against Hawai’i as he recorded nine tackles, including 0.5 for loss, to go along with an interception return of 99 yards for his first career defensive touchdown, which ranks as the third-longest interception return in Utah State and Mountain West history.
Vigil, a 6-2, 230-pounder from Plain City, Utah, earned first-team all-Mountain West honors as a sophomore as he ranked first on the team in forced fumbles (5), tied for first in quarterback hurries (6), second in tackles (123) and tackles for loss (16.5), and third in sacks (7.0), while adding two pass breakups and one interception. Overall, he ranked first in the MW and tied for seventh in the nation in fumbles forced (0.38 pg), fourth in the MW and tied for 29th in the nation in tackles (9.5 pg), fourth in the MW and tied for 30th in the nation in tackles for loss (1.27 pg), and sixth in the MW in sacks (0.54 pg). In all, he had six double-digit tackle outings on the season, including a career-high 15 tackles at Tennessee.
Like Fackrell, Vigil is also on the Chuck Bednarik Watch List. He is also a Phil Steele and Athlon Sports first-team all-Mountain West selection.
The 6-2, 210-pound Keeton has played in just nine games during the last two seasons, including the first three games of the 2014 campaign before reinjuring his surgically repaired knee that he originally hurt in the sixth game of the 2013 season. A year ago, Keeton was 51-of-92 passing for 426 yards (142.0 ypg) and two touchdowns, to go along with four interceptions. He also rushed for 81 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries (4.1ypc).
As a sophomore in 2012, Keeton earned first-team all-Western Athletic Conference honors after ranking 17th nationally in total offense (307.1 ypg), 18th in passing efficiency (154.7) and 29th in passing (259.5 ypg). During the 2012 season, Keeton set single-season school records for touchdown passes (27), passing yards (3,373), completions (275), completion percentage (.676) and total offense (3,992 yards), while tying the single-game record for rushing yards by a quarterback with 121 yards at Louisiana Tech.
Keeton is also on the Maxwell Award Watch List, Wuerffel Trophy Watch List and Davey O’Brien Award Watch List. He is also an Athlon Sports first-team all-Mountain West and Phil Steele third-team all-Mountain West selection.
Utah State returns 15 starters (O-8, D-7) and 39 letterwinners (O-12, D-25, S-2) from last year’s team that went 10-4 overall, finished tied for second in the Mountain Division of the Mountain West with a 6-2 record, and ended its season with a 21-6 win against UTEP in the Gildan New Mexico Bowl. At season’s end, USU received 11 top-25 votes in the final Associated Press poll and eight votes in the final ESPN/USA Today Coaches’ poll to rank 32nd and 34th, respectively.
Over the last three years, Utah State is one of just four Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) schools to win at least 30 games and three bowl games, joining Clemson, Michigan State and Oregon. Furthermore, the Aggies have played in four-straight bowl games, winning each of their last three, both of which are school records.
Utah State will open the 2015 season on Thursday, Sept. 3, at home against Southern Utah and will begin Mountain West play on Saturday, Oct. 3, at home against Colorado State.
For Aggie football ticket information, fans can contact the USU Athletics Ticket Office over the phone by calling 1-888-USTATE-1 or 435-797-0305 during regular hours of operation. Fans can also buy their tickets in person at the USU Ticket Office inside the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum or online by clicking on the “Buy Tickets” tab at www.UtahStateAggies.com.
Fans can follow the Aggie football program at twitter.com/USUFootball or on Facebook at Utah State Football, as well as on Instagram at instagram.com/USUFootball. Aggie fans can also follow the Utah State athletic program at twitter.com/USUAthletics or on Facebook at Utah State University Athletics.
<span style=”text-decoration: underline;”><strong>2015 Mountain West Football Preseason All-Conference Team</strong></span>
<span style=”text-decoration: underline;”>Offense</span>
QB Chuckie Keeton, Sr., Utah State
WR Rashard Higgins, Jr., Colorado State
WR Devonte Boyd, So., UNLV
RB Donnel Pumphrey, Jr., San Diego State
RB Marteze Waller, Sr., Fresno State
OL Marcus Henry, Sr., Boise State
OL Rees Odhiambo, Sr., Boise State
OL Alex Fifita, Sr., Fresno State
OL Ben Clarke, Sr., Hawai’i
OL Pearce Slater, Sr., San Diego State
TE Steven Walker, Sr., Colorado State
<span style=”text-decoration: underline;”>Defense</span>
DL Alex Hansen, Sr., Air Force
DL Kamalei Correa, Jr., Boise State
DL Ian Seau, Sr., Nevada
DL Eddie Yarbrough, Sr., Wyoming
LB Tanner Vallejo, Jr., Boise State
LB Kyler Fackrell, Sr., Utah State
LB Nick Vigil, Jr., Utah State
DB Weston Steelhammer, Jr., Air Force
DB Donte Deayon, Sr., Boise State
DB Darian Thompson, Sr., Boise State
DB Damontae Kazee, Jr., San Diego State
<span style=”text-decoration: underline;”>Specialists</span>
P Alex Boy, Sr., Nevada
PK Donny Hageman, Sr., San Diego State
Ret. Carlos Wiggins, Sr., New Mexico
<span style=”text-decoration: underline;”>Preseason Offensive Player of the Year:</span> Rashard Higgins, Jr., WR, Colorado State
<span style=”text-decoration: underline;”>Preseason Defensive Player of the Year:</span> Kyler Fackrell, Sr., LB, Utah State
<span style=”text-decoration: underline;”>Preseason Special Teams Player of the Year:</span> Donny Hageman, Sr., PK, San Diego State