Let me begin with these words:  The 2020 season is highly unlikely to be completed.  Not just Aztec football, but all college football.  C-19 is increasing in severity (I’m a hospitalization rate guy.  Sure the infection rate is important, but the better telltale sign is how many people are hospitalized due to C-19 infection) as of today (July 8, 2020) and has been for the last half of June.  The Aztec football schedule as presented is likely altered.  Thus life during the C-19 era.  Enough of this cheery note.  Let us take a gander at the 2020 SDSU football team.

The coaching staff underwent significant change.  This makes me feel a tad unsettled.  However, less so than normal given the familiar face of Brady Hoke returning to the head coaching position.  Reportedly, Brady gave a promise/pledge/cross my heart to both Adela de la Torre and John David Wicker that he will remain at the Mesa for the duration of his current contract.  No more Michigan or any other school knocking on his door (that’s not happening anyway) due to the success of the Aztecs.  Jeff Hecklinski becomes the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.  Mr. Hecklinski brings the “fresh look” on behalf of the offensive players stuck in the #2, #3, and #4 spots on the depth chart.  I choose to believe that Mr. Hecklinski will throw the ball a great deal more than Aztec fans have witnessed the last three years.  I expect a minimum of 25 tosses per game.  Not that the running game will be the second act to the passing game, simply the offense will be balanced.  Jeff Horton is no longer the offensive coordinator (thank, God).  He will stay busy with the running backs.  Savai’i Eselu will coach the tight ends.  Defensively, Kurt Mattix assumes Rocky Long’s role as defensive coordinator.  Good luck.  He may as well be the guy who follows Mike Trout when the time comes.  Mr. Mattix claims he will keep the essence of Rocky’s 3-3-5 defense.  I hope so.  Mr. Mattix will also oversee the linebackers.  Kyle Hoke (yes, related to Brady) is the new safeties coach.  Jordan Thomas assumes Brady’s old role of handling the defensive line.  Lots of change.

Offense

Quarterback:  A spirited competition awaits for the starting quarterback spot between  Carson Baker (so.) and transfer Lucas Johnson (jr.).  Mr. Baker started and won the BYU game and did quite well.  He has an arm.  Forty and fifty yard ropes while under pressure are the rule for Mr. Baker.  Mr. Johnson rarely played at Georgia Tech (he was originally a SDSU recruit out of high school.  We all make mistakes, Mr. Johnson).  He is the traditional dual threat quarterback.  Unlike most dual threat quarterbacks, he can actually throw the ball downfield.  At the very least, Coach Heck (the aforementioned Mr. Hecklinski) has options.  The third spot will be a toss up between Jordon Brookshire (jr.) and Matt Salazar (jr.).

Running Backs:  Mr. Horton will have an impressive rotation of backs.  Four returning backs had carries of 89, 79, 78 and 30, which translates into proven game experience.  The Nebraska transfer Greg Bell (sr.), who did not play last year due to injury, enhances a sound rotation of able running backs.  I anticipate Greg Bell to make a starting duo of Bells with Chance Bell (jr., 4.3 yards per rush).  Let the nicknaming begin!  Chase Jasmin (sr., 4.6 ypr) will be part of this active swirl of running backs that includes Jordan Byrd (jr., 4.6 ypr) and Kaegun Williams (jr., 3.7 ypr).

Fullback:  I expect to see the fullbacks, when on the field, slotted for downfield blocking or the surprise catch a few yards beyond the line of scrimmage.  Gone are the days of the bruiser who partnered with the running back for battering purposes at the snap.  Grady Vazquez (sr.), Connor McBride (jr.),  Andrew Alves (so.) and Charlie Rogers (r-fr.) form the depth chart in the order presented.

Wide Receivers:  Lots of talent returning.  Lots.  Coach Hunkie Cooper will enjoy year two of palatable success.  Kobe Smith (jr., 58 catches, 12 yards per catch) and Jesse Matthews (so., 48 catches, 13 ypc) start on opposite sides of the tackles.  Elijah Kothe (jr., 17 catches, 11 ypc), Ethan Dedeaux (jr., 7 catches, but an impressive 17 ypc), Isaiah Richardson (jr., 9 catches, 13 ypc) and BJ Busbee (jr., 13 catches, 8 ypc) back-up Mr. Smith and Mr. Matthews.  Given my WAG (wild ass guess) about Coach Heck’s desire to involve a ball in flight on a regular basis, this group should experience notable increases in both catches and yards per catch.  Visiting the end zone on a regular basis is also on the agenda.

Tight Ends:  I do not foresee a double tight end formation as often as the past.  Daniel Bellinger (jr., 15 catches, 13 ypc) gets the majority of field time.  Transfer Nolan Givan (sr.) doubles with or subs Mr. Bellinger.  Alex Wilson (jr.) is the remaining tight end on the spring roster meaning rare opportunity for true freshmen Aaron Greene and Jay Rudolph to impress during practice.  Take advantage, gentlemen.

Offensive Line:  Last year’s performance was better than 2018’s.  I trust 2020’s will be better than 2019’s.  Coach Mike Schmidt has returning, experienced players that should (a dangerous word.  Should get out of bed.  Should put down the donut) create an able line of protection for all involved.  William Dunkle (so., rg), Zachary Thomas (sr., rt) and Keith Spalding (sr., lt) are returning starters.  Dominic Guidino (sr.) earns a start at the center spot.  Jacob Capra (sr.) does the same at left guard.  Plenty of competition awaits the group forming the second tier:  Desmond Bessent (jr.), Joey Capra (r-fr.), Brandon Crenshaw-Dickson (r-fr.), Chris Martinez (jr.), Kyle Trombley (r-fr.), and Alama Uluave (jr.).

Defense

I enjoyed the Days of Rocky.  Great times.  I am spoiled and have great expectations. Do you hear me, Coach Mattix?

Defensive Line:  Cameron Thomas (so., 49 tackles) and Keyshawn Banks (jr., 43 tackles) are looking for the third starter on the line.  I’m guessing Connor Mitchell (jr.).  He played often enough to notice last year.  Jonah Tavai (jr.), Sefo Mailangi (sr.) and Jalil Lecky (sr.) form the second level.

Linebackers:  Andrew Aleki (sr., 35 tackles) is the only returning linebacker with substantial total tackles in 2019.  The much ballyhooed (love that word) Michael Shawcraft (so.,) starts in 2020.  Choose from Seydrick Lakalaka (jr.), Kaelin Himphill (sr.), Caden McDonald (jr.), and Clifton Styles (so.) to complete the trio of starters.

Defensive Backs:  I group the corners, safties, warriors together.  Why?  Easier for me.  Dwayne Johnson Jr. (sr., 92 tackles), Tariq Thompson (sr., 55 tackles), Darren Hall (jr., 49 tackles), Trenton Thompson (sr., 44 tackles), Tayler Hawkins (sr., 30 tackles) occupy all five of the 2020 starting spots.  Four seniors and a junior bring a tremendous amount of experience, skill and talent.  Opposing quarterbacks can look forward to general confusion and doubt when putting a ball in the air against the Aztec defense.  Most likely next in line:  Cedarious Barfield (so.,), Patrick Morris (so.) and Rashad Scott (jr.).

Kicking Game

Matt Araiza (so.) begins year two as king of field goals and extra points.  Plus, he booms the ball into the end zone during kickoffs.  He can punt as well, but I’m guessing special teams coach Doug Deakin seeks another leg for that duty.  Tanner Kuljian (sr., graduate transfer) gets first shot at the punting job.  He averaged 43 yards in 2018 and 40 yards last year.  Turner Bernard (sr.) is the long snapper.

2020 Prediction

First, if we play all scheduled games, I will be the most surprised fan in Aztec land.  Assuming the impossible happens, the first three games (Sacramento State, @Toledo, UCLA) result in 2-1.  MWC begins on September 26th at Nevada, followed by UNLV, @Utah State, @ Wyoming, San Jose State and Colorado State.  BYU interupts conference play.  We finish @ Fresno State and home against Hawaii.  Both Nevada schools are Aztec wins.  Same with Utah State.  Wyoming (October 17th is better than November given the wild weather that can roar through Laramie at anytime during autumn) is a toss up.  We beat both the Spartans and Rams.  BYU (there) . . .  who knows?  I despise playing those guys.  We beat Fresno.  And Hawaii.  In my perfect world, SDSU goes 10-2 best case.  8-4 worst case.  Mountain West play ranges from 7-1 to 5-3.

Sadly, as I post this masterpiece, I read that the PAC-12 cancelled all non-con games, thus our game against UCLA is no more.

 

 

Yes, I’m betting college football (including the Mountain West) is nationwide no later than mid-September.  Is this development wise considering the elastic ability of covid-19 to appear, disappear and reappear?  Probably not.  However, money calls and television contracts are the primary source of said money.  More on this likely outcome will appear at the bottom of my MWC 2020 preview.  You lucky bastards.

Mountain

1 – Boise State.  Loaded, yet again.

Offense:  The only significant loss for the 2020 season is the graduation of their #1, #3 and #4 receivers from 2019.  However, John Bates and Octavius Evans gladly take two of those three spots.  Their top two rushers (George Holani and Robert Mahone) return along with the talented quarterback duo of Hank Bachmeier and Chase Cord.  Boise averaged 35 points a game last year.  I expect no less in 2020.

Defense:  The Broncos’ run defense gave away a mere 3.5 yards per carry last year.  Their defense features 13 of their top 20 tacklers returning.  Not terribly deep, yet not terribly shallow.  They give up a couple more points per game than last year (22), but the offense is potent enough to withstand any defensive collapse.

2 – Wyoming.  Ever improving Wyoming.  Craig Bohl and staff are exemplary in their collective coaching approach and recruiting efforts (offering Laramie as an autumn/winter destination requires a smile, supply of winter clothing and perseverance galore).

Offense:  Much like Boise State, the quarterback spot features not one, but two experienced players.  Granted, neither Sean Chambers or Levi Williams is set to become MWC player of the year.  Both Mr. Chambers and Mr. Williams need to work on completion rates given their respective 2019 rates of 43% and 49%.  Losing their top 3 receivers does not help.  The running game will dominate the 2020 Cowboy efforts.  Xazavian Valladay (5.2 ypc) and Trey Smith (5.2 ypc) will run to their hearts delight and exhaustion.  Brett Brenton (5.9 ypc) will increase his number of carries as well.

Defense:  If Boise’s 3.5 ypc defensive stat impressed, may I present the Cowboys exponentially stingy 2.9 ypc.  Plus, the Wyoming defense allowed an impressive average of 18 points per game.  14 of the first 20 tacklers return, however the top 3 from last year graduated.  Much like the Broncos, Wyoming gives away a couple more points on average in 2020.

3 – Air Force:  Run, run, run, run, run, run.  When nobody is looking, throw a completed pass ten yards behind the stunned safety.  And repeat.

Offense.  The top 5 rushers return.  Since we are discussing Air Force, of course their #1 rusher is the returning starting quarterback, Donald Hammond, III.  The experienced Mr. Hammond makes the triple option all the more effective in 2020.  The offense loses their top 3 receivers, but who cares?

Defense:  2019’s defense allowed 20 points per game.  They lose 6 of their top 10 tacklers.  Those 6 accounted for 46% of total tackles.  Quite the gap to fill in 2020, thus my reason for placing the Falcons behind the Cowboys.

4 – Colorado State.  Hiring Steve Addazio was a big mistake.  Big.  Mr. Addazio in 7 seasons at Boston College patched together a 44-44 record.  His bunker/us-against-the-world mentality will quickly wear thin at Fort Collins.  If he survives his contact, I’ll be surprised.

Offense:  The good news for Rams fans is the return of starting quarterback Patrick O’Brien.  Mr. O’Brien played well in 2019.  He completed 62% of his passes and threw for more than 2,800 yards.  Not bad.  (However, if Mr. O’Brien suffers any significant injury in 2020, CSU lists only two other quarterbacks on the roster).  Mr. O’Brien will have plenty of offensive options in 2020 as the #2 and #3 rushers return along with his top 4 receivers.  Of the 4, watch and enjoy the continued development of senior Warren Jackson.  Last year’s 77 catches approaches 90 in 2020.  Given all of this returning talent, you ask yourself, “Why a predicted fourth place finish?”  Colorado State hired Steve Addazio.  Oh, yeah.

Defense:  The Rams lose their #1 tackler from 2020 along with #5, #6 and #7.  The defense allowed 31 points per game last year.  That number increases in 2020.  Also, their opponents converted 68% of fourth down opportunities.  Look for opponents to continue to take the fourth down chance.

5 – Utah State.  No Jordan Love means a tremendous, jaw dropping lack of offense in 2020.

Offense:  If Henry Colombi struggles at the quarterback position, the Aggies likely begin a quick descent into a long, difficult season.  The #2 and #3 receivers return along with the #2 rusher.  Jaylen Warren needs company in the backfield to form an effective running game in 2020.

Defense:  The Aggies return only 11 of their top 20 tacklers.  Their 2019 defensive efforts resulted in an inept 29 rushing touchdowns for opponents.  Couple that misfire with allowing 441 yards per game.  Oy vey.  Much to fix in 2020.

6 – New Mexico.  Hiring Danny Gonzales was a smart decision.  Mr. Gonzales convincing Rocky Long to return to UNM as defensive coordinator was an equally smart move.  Granted, the Lobos were a maladjusted football team the last two years and much is in need of repair, so be patient with the coaching staff as they implement “new culture” in Albuquerque.

Offense:  Tevaka Tuioti and two experienced backups return to the quarterback spot.  The #2 rusher returns along with 5 of the top 6 receivers.  Expect UNM to toss the ball 30+ times per game in 2020.  Any opponent with a lousy defensive backfield is a potential upset victim.

Defense:  Rocky returns to a flaming dumpster fire of a Lobo defense.  Last year’s squad gave up 486 yards per game, 37 points per game, 15 yards per completion and allowed opponents to convert 67% of fourth downs.  If you thought all the above was cringe worthy, throw in 34 td passes allowed.  Yeah, that was a pun.  Only 12 of the top 20 tacklers return, but that low return rate is a favor to Rocky.

West

1 – San Diego State:  A “new” head coach in Brady Hoke (his second appointment as head coach to the Mesa) coupled with Jeff Horton no longer the offensive coordinator brings necessary change on the offensive side of the ball.

Offense:  Either Carson Baker or Lucas Johnson (Georgia Tech transfer) wins the quarterback job.  If Mr. Baker wins the job, the Aztecs throw more than they run.  If Mr. Johnson wins the quarterback job, the Aztecs run more than they throw.  The running game, after two years of a slow fade, improves with the return of the #2, #3 and #4 rushers.  2020 receivers are deep with the return of the first 4.

Defense:  Even though the Aztecs lose their #1 tackler from 2019, 15 of the top 20 return including 7 of the top 10.  Granted, replicating 2019’s defensive performance of allowing 13 points a game and 2.8 ypc isn’t likely to happen, yet the SDSU defense will be the best in the West division.

2 – University of Nevada.  The Wolfpack won 3 of their final 4 MWC games, thus allowing the return of head coach Jay Norvell.  Oh, joy.

Offense:  Carson Strong returns as the starting quarterback after surviving a year of on-field learning.  The top 2 rushers return as do the top 2 receivers, though they lose the #3, #4 and #5 receivers from 2019.  Returning to the rushing game, 2019’s trivial rushing ypc average of 3.4 must improve or else Mr. Strong will average 40+ passing attempts per game out of necessity.

Defense:  7 of the top 10 tacklers return and 13 of the top 20.  The 2020 defense must flip the -11 points per game difference surrendered in 2019 (UN 21, opponent 32).  The best hope other than self-improvement for the Nevada defense is the impressive play of their quarterback so that he can pull their collective and individual buttocks from the fire.

3 – Fresno State.  A new coach in Kalen DeBoer (much needed.  Jeff Tedford displayed all the interest of a man waiting for a root canal).  Improving on last year’s total of 4 wins is guaranteed.

Offense:  Ronnie Rivers returns as their leading rusher.  Zane Pope returns as their leading receiver.  The University of Washington transfer, Jake Haener likely wins the quarterback competition.  If he produces, great.  If not, get ready for the carousel.  Mr. DeBoer’s primary challenge is creating an offense that scores points.

Defense:  Speaking of scoring points, the 2019 Bulldog defense allowed 31 or more points in 7 of 12 games as well as a stunning 420 yards per game.  Yuk.  13 of the top 20 tacklers return.

4 – San Jose State.  Go ahead.  Laugh.  Is San Jose greatly improved?  A bit.  Head coach Brent Brennan and staff continue the painful turn towards success.  The real reason for the #4 spot is the schools yet to be mentioned are walking backwards downfield while wearing blindfolds.

Offense:  Josh Love moves on.  Graduate transfer Nick Starkel via Texas A&M and the University of Arkansas arrives.  On behalf of the Spartans, his past travel better payoff.  Mr. Starkel will, thankfully, have 4 of the top 5 receivers returning for 2020.  SJSU’s 2019 running game averaged a pathetic 3.5 ypc/89 ypg.  But, with the return of Kaire Robinson (4.3 ypc) and soon to be determined partner, the running effort should  improve.

Defense:  The Spartans lose their #1 tackler, but return 7 of the top 10 and 14 of the top 20.  The 2020 defense must significantly reduce last year’s 444 ypg and 62% fourth down conversion rate for the Spartan offense to have any chance of winning a close game.

5 – Hawaii.  They too have a new head coach.  The uninspiring Todd Graham.  Almost as poor a choice as Steve Addazio.  Almost.

Offense:  Chevan Cordeiro returns and wins the quarterback spot in 2020 (Cole McDonald and his 4,135 passing yards are long gone).  Their #1 rusher returns and #2 and #5 receiver, which is code for running and receiving depth must be developed for a semi-successful 2020.  However, no matter who fills the offensive gaps, 2019’s average of 34 points per game decreases dramatically.

Defense:  Hawaii’s defense goes from bad to worse in 2020.  They gave up 32 points per game last year.  I say add a field goal to that total for 2020.  Allowing 37 rushing touchdowns in 2019 was eye-popping and painful.  They lose half of their top 10 tacklers, and return only 11 of the top 20.

6 – UNLV.  Another new coach (the West can’t get enough of new coaches in 2020).  Marcus Arroyo assumes the ever present challenge of turning the Rebels into a winning football program.

Offense:  The #1 and #2 quarterbacks return.  You flip the coin.  Either Kenyon Oblad or the ever under-performing Armani Rogers lead the Rebels in 2020.  Their top 2 rushers return.  Both Charles Williams and Chad Magyar averaged 5+ ypc last year.  The top 4 receivers return as well.  Coach Arroyo should have enough talent to hang around late in a game to surprise or at least make the opposition sweat.

Defense:  Beginning with the word “ouch”, UNLV loses 4 of their top 5 tacklers and return only 10 of the top 20.  Rebel faithful will lose count how many times the UNLV defense returns the lead to opponents this year.  Last year’s defense gave up 33 points per game.  2020’s defense gives up more.

____________________________________________________________________________________________

Returning to my preamble (rambling is a better description), 2020 forward (or until further notice) college football will no longer feature on field cheerleaders, band performances at halftime, grown men standing on the sideline who send large amounts of money to football programs for the privilege of said standing (a weird, twisted form of groupie-ism), fans in the stadium are few, front rows behind the team benches are dedicated to team medical staff and general support services (granted not all stadiums can accommodate this change, but those that can will), the majority of coaching staff will be found in coaching and press boxes, game balls are rotated and cleaned as often as every snap, clear or shaded plexi-glass is inserted into each players face mask to “protect” against spit and sweat (good luck), player gloves are mandatory less the quarterback, players shaking hands at the beginning of each game ends, and finally game time from start to finish increases due to the above mentioned precautions.

Candidly, Rocky ranks with Don Coryell.  He was better than Claude Gilbert.  Rocky’s nine years at San Diego State produced an overall record of 81 – 38 (.681) and MWC record of 51 – 20 (.718).  None of his Aztec teams finished with an overall .500 record or losing record.  Only once in MWC play was .500 the result (4 – 4 during 2018).  He won 10 games twice (2017 and 2019).  He won 11 games twice (2015 and 2016).  Over a three year period, his Aztec teams posted a total of 32 wins.  Not bad for a head coach with the soul of a defensive coordinator.

Bowl game appearances became the norm rather than the exception during Rocky’s tenure at San Diego State.  Nine seasons produced nine bowls.  Sure some games were as disappointing as a pair of socks on Christmas morning.  Other games (the wins) were built for Aztecs fans’ memories:  Stomping Buffalo on a frigid night in Boise (49 – 24); ruining Cincinnati’s Hawaiian vacation (42 – 7); my personal favorite was the complete dismantling of Houston (34 -10.  In my not so humble opinion the best Aztec effort on both sides of the ball . . . ever) and the good-bye, Rocky game against Central Michigan (48 – 11).

Let’s dive a bit deeper.

Rocky’s defenses gave away a season average of 30+ points once (31.7 in 2013).  2011’s defense was the next “worse”:  25.8 points allowed per game.  Two teams (2016 and 2017) allowed an identical 20.2.  His best defenses were 2014 (19.8), 2015 (16.4) and an absolutely crushing 12.7 in 2019.  His speciality was stuffing the run.  Opponents averaged barely 72 rushing yards per game in 2019.  Consider, that total is shy of 3/4s of a football field.  2018’s defense allowed 94.5 rushing yards per game (still a tad shy of an entire field and definitely end-zone free).  The SDSU defenses from 2015 – 2017 allowed 111.2, 111.9 and 110.4 rushing yards per game respectively.  From 2015 to 2019, Aztec rushing defense was rated in the top 5 for three years (2015, 2018, 2019), top 10 for one year (2017) and 11th overall in 2016.

During Rocky’s nine years, the offense wasn’t reminiscent of past glory (Coryell and Gilbert), but the Aztecs put the ball in the end zone and between the uprights often enough to generate those win percentages of .681 and .718.  Plus, we watched the impressive skill sets of Ronnie Hillman, Donnel Pumphrey and Rashaad Penny running this way and that way, over, under and through to great effect.  Speaking of those fine running backs (and not mentioned other running backs, quarterbacks, wide receivers and tight ends), 7 of Rocky’s 9 years featured offenses that scored between 25 points and 35 points.  Sure his final two years I dare not use the word “featured” to describe the Aztec offense.  Rather, “cringe worthy”, “red zone reluctant” and “pathetic” best portray the SDSU offensive efforts of 2018 and 2019.  Then again, who is perfect?

Rocky’s worst finish in MWC play was his first year (2011) as head coach, a seemingly unpromising 4th.  None of his Aztec teams finished 4th again.  Rocky’s teams finished first or tied for first five seasons including consecutive MWC championships in 2015 and 2016.  SDSU finished second in 2013 and 2017.  Third once in 2018.

Finally, his head coaching efforts against the infamous power-5 resulted in an overall record of 6-9.  His 2011 squad knocked off Washington State in 2011, then promptly lost the next eight non-conference games against p-5 schools.  However, from 2016 to 2019, his Aztec teams went 5-1 against the big boys.  PAC-12 games, always of note given our California residency, resulted in a 6-5 record which included the aforementioned run of 5-1.

The days of his souring media demeanor as the season progressed will be missed.  By mid-October, his press conferences (pre or post) featured a man who would rather be in his dentist’s chair than speaking to a writer from any media outlet.  His perpetual folded arms while roaming the sidelines represented a coach who simply wanted the last two minutes of the game to grind out another victory.  His back turned to all things offense during timeouts was the sign of extreme confidence in not only his offensive coordinator, but also his entire offensive coaching staff.  Much like a man lost in a kitchen who loves to eat.

Rocky Long returns to the University of New Mexico in 2020.  How long he stays, who knows?  He can always come back to the beach and offer an idea or two.

 

 

 

Granted, 10-3 was an impressive end to the 2019 season.  But, as I prepare to moan, groan and bitch, 5-3 in Mountain West play was disappointing, nay, anemic.

What to do?  What to do?

I complained about the Aztec offense, or lack thereof, most every post during 2019.  Less the New Mexico State and San Jose State games, SDSU’s offense resembled an old man attempting to dodge oncoming skateboarders on the boardwalk.

Rocky chose 2019 as the year of the shotgun offense.  We resembled a squirt gun all to often in 2019.  The most points scored, less the New Mexico Bowl, was 31 (New Mexico State).  The SDSU offense scored 20 or less points in seven of thirteen games.  Four games featured the dismal frustration of less than 15 points.  Our offense was passed out face down in the glare of Saturday night lights.  Not that the opposition defense was near as good as the Aztec defense.  Was not the case.  Rather, our offense was inept.

What to do?

First, Jeff Horton needs to go.  Rocky needs a shot gun offensive coordinator.  Mr. Horton is and will always be a smash-mouth, pound and ground man, and rightfully so.  His Aztec offenses, less the last two years, were superb.  We beat opposing defenses into dust and spit.  Pound and ground does not morph into a pass oriented offense with ease, and certainly not with the same man directing the action.  Mr. Horton’s 2018 offense averaged 20.6 points per game.  2019 “jumped” to 21.2 points per game.  Zzzz material.  One final bit of proof is 19/44 in the red zone.  Well below 50% when presented the opportunity to score six.

The root of this unimpressive result is the Aztec offensive line.  Offensive line coach Mike Schmidt must follow his offensive coordinator out the door.  The offensive line’s performance not only this year, but 2018 as well, has not met past performance.  Pass protection was above average, but run blocking was far too horizontal.  3.4 yards per carry is barely worth the bother.  Twelve rushing touchdowns was less than one per game.  Rare was the sight of an Aztec offensive lineman eight yards downfield looking for a smash moment involving either a linebacker or defensive back.

SDSU football has the chance to enter a new stadium in 2022 (thereabout) with an impressive, winning football team on both sides of the ball.  Maintaining the coaching status quo will whiff on that opportunity.  Fix the Aztec offense.

 

SDSU 48, CMU 11

Posted: December 23, 2019 in Uncategorized

A good old fashion butt kicking.  Best bowl game since 2016 against Houston (my favorite).

The Aztec offense generated points each quarter.  Pure magic given the prior twelve games.  Jordan Byrd ran for 139 yards.  The o-line blocked and pushed the Central Michigan defensive line into their linebackers.  The defensive backs were whipped a few minutes into the third quarter.  CMU’s body language screamed, “Get me back to Mt. Pleasant!”

Ryan Agnew finished well.  18/31 with 3 touchdowns.  He led an offense that generated 510 yards and averaged almost 7 yards per play.  Now that is how to say “good-bye”.  The third and fourth quarters featured the Aztec offense on the field for 21+ minutes of the available 30 minutes.  Offense serving as defense.

Once again, the SDSU defense was this side of phenomenal.  Kyahva Tezino’s pick from his own tipped pass set the tone.  Yes, that moment occurred during CMU’s first offensive possession.  The Aztec defensive line and linebackers were camped in the Chippewas’ backfield the entire game.  Frankly, 3 sacks should have been at least 6.  The CMU qb wiggled out of a half dozen SDSU grips.  I suspect vegetable oil applications on his jersey. We will never know.

Luq Barcoo and Tariq Thompson joined the Kyahva Tezino interception parade.  Those 3 interceptions created a second guessing CMU offense that converted only 4 of 16 third downs.  Runs went nowhere.  Passes were over thrown and under thrown.

Congrats to Matt Araiza hitting 48 and 31 yard field goals.  Three more years of Mr. Araiza sits well with me.

10-3 is the end.  Something about double digit wins makes for a better place.

2020 awaits.

Go, Aztecs.

 

N.L. East:  Not bad, not bad at all.

Miami (#1).  The Marlins join the Detroit Tigers in head spinning.  Zac Gallen had a taste of Miami last year.  He is permanent in 2020.  Most of the strength comes from AA ball.  Vincenzo Aiello, Tommy Eveld and Parker Bugg are the most talented followed by Dylan Lee, Tyler Stevens, Cody Proteet and Alex Vesia.  By the way, the Marlins have five pitchers of note in A+ ball as well.

NYM (#4).  While developing 2-9 players seems a deep, dark mystery to the Mets, pitching has plenty of hope for the future.  Harol Gonzalez (AAA/AA) is the most likely candidate to join the staff post-spring training.  Zach Lee (MLB/AAA/AA) was an unnecessary rush job in 2019.  Adonis Uceta (AA) and Balke Taylor (AA) make the team with a good spring.  Watch Yeizo Campos (A+) as the next two years go by.

Washington (#6).  Mario Sanchez (AA) should arrive in D.C. sometime during 2020.  Ben Braymer (AA) stands a chance as well.  Two rush jobs in 2019 need to gather themselves in AAA, then rise:  Eric Fedde (MLB/AAA/AA) and Kyle McGowan (MLB/AAA/AA).  Aaron Fletcher (A+/A) is exceptional.

Philadelphia (#7).  Edgar Garcia (MLB/AAA) returns to Philly fulltime in 2020.  Spencer Howard (AA/A+) is best in system.  Connor Brogdon (AA/A+) is not far behind.

Atlanta (#13).  A couple of guys in A+.  A couple of guys in A.  Yawn.

N.L. Central:  Two teams develop pitching.  Three teams need the time of day.

Pittsburgh (#3).  Blake Weiman (AA) is best in system.  Brandon Wadell (AA) joins him in Pittsburgh at some point in 2020.  Three in A+ deserve watching:  Cody Bolton, Nick Mears, and Nicholas Economos.

Milwaukee (#5).  Luke Barker (AAA/AA) moves to Milwaukee in 2020.  Adrian Houser (MLB/AAA) stays in Milwaukee.  Aaron Kurcz (AA) and Trey Supak (AA) may get an August, 2020 taste.

Chicago (#9).  Rowan Wick (MLB/AAA) will get another shot in Wrigley.  After Mr. Rowan, not much.  A guy to watch is Jeffrey Passantino (A+).

Cincinnati (#12T).  Alex Powers (AA) is best in system.  No notable AAA talent in 2019.  Same goes for AA less Mr. Powers.

St. Louis (#12T).  One guy in AAA.  One guy in AA.  Tommy Parsons (A) is a long way from the Arch.

N.L. West:  The opposite of the 2-9 success.

Colorado (#2).  Ben Bowden (AA) is best in system.  Joining him from the AA ranks are Ashton Godeau, Alexander Guillen, Rico Garcia, Heath Holder and Tate Scioneaux.

Arizona (#10).  Let the parade of non-development begin.  Except for Joel Payamps, AAA was void of contestants.  AA ball was luke warm.  Blake Workman (A) is the one to watch.

Los Angeles (#11T).  I do not share the trumpeting of Dustin May (MLB/AAA).  Mitchell White (AA) and Markus Solbach may arrive in L.A. late 2020.  Brett de Geus (A) is on the watch list.

San Diego (#11T).  When an organizations two best pitchers are in A+, much needs to be improved.  Mackenzie Gore and Steven Wilson begin 2020 in AA.  Hopefully, rush jobs are avoided.

San Francisco (#12T).  Carlos Navas (AA) is best in system.  A thin system.  Some talent is brewing in A+ and A ball.  The Giants failed to fill their top-ten, stopping at #7.

 

And now for pitching.  Both kinds.

A. L. East:  Not near as bad as everyday player development, yet no shining example either.

Toronto (#4).  Nate Pearson is far and away their best pitcher in development.  He traveled three levels last year (AAA/AA/A+).  Most of the Jays developmental strength is found in AA, thus perhaps one or two offers 2020 assistance in Toronto.  Jackson Rees (A) is one to watch.

Tampa (#8).  Brendan McKay (MLB/AAA/AA) likely begins in Tampa this coming season.  A bit of a rush job last year, but plenty of other car wrecks litter the MLB landscape not near as bad as Tampa pushing Mr. McKay.  Joe Ryan (A+) and Shane McClanahan (A+) are the next great hope in Tampa’s system.

NYY (#9).  One of the following lands with the Yankees in 2020:  Brian Keller (AA), Clark Schmidt (AA) or Domingo Acevedo (AA).  A lot of talent in A ball, but that mound is much different than the mound in the Bronx.

Baltimore (#11).  Less Tayler Scott (MLB/AAA), not much.  Maybe Hunter Harvey (MLB/AAA) and Dillon Tate (MLB/AAA/AA) offer assistance.

Boston (#14).  Awful.  Boston’s minor league system was incapable of placing a top-ten list.  The ninth and tenth spots are vacant.  Less Rio Gomez (A), so is their pitching development.

A.L. Central:  To the continued surprise of most, Detroit tops my A.L. pitching development.  Strange days.

Detroit (#1).  2020 will feature the arrival of Matt Manning (AA) and Joey Wentz (AA).  By far the best two in system.  John Schreiber (MLB/AAA) and Eduardo Jimenez (MLB/AAA) most likely join the Detroit bullpen.  Casey Mize (AA/A+), Kyle Funkhouse (AA), Drew Carlton (AA) and Ethan Decaster (AA) complete an impressive group of arms in waiting.

Minnesota (#2).  Sensing the same theme as everyday player development results?  Randy Dobnak (MLB/AAA/AA/A+) is all but a lock to appear in the Twin Cities April forward.  Cody Stashak (MLB/AAA/AA) returns as well.  Other 2020 quality candidates include Adam Bray (AAA/AA), Griffin Jax (AA) and Bailey Ober (AA/A+)  Finally, Devin Smetzler (MLB/AAA/AA) and Lewis Thorpe (MLB/AAA) have a chance to return post-spring training.

Cleveland (#6).  Solid, yet unspectacular arms especially in AA.  Zach Pleasac sticks with the club out of spring training.  Then I bet on Aaron Civale (MLB/AAA) and A.J. Cole (MLB/AAA) to have extended time in Cleveland.

White Sox (#10).  A toss up between Jimmy Cordero (MLB/AAA), Matt Tomshaw (AA) and Kyle Kubat (AA/A+) to land in Chicago in April.

K.C. (#12).  Tyler Zuber (AA) is a rush job candidate for 2020 since the Royals failed to have a single 2019 AAA pitcher make their top-ten.

A.L. West:  One big change that many will dismiss.

Seattle (#3).  A mixture of 2019 MLB/AAA exposure.  Five pitchers (Dan Altavilla, Andrew Moore, Zac Grotz, Justus Sheffield and Justin Dunn) suffered from organizational stupidity that landed them in AAA for no apparent reason other than to struggle before being rushed to Seattle.  A slower pace in 2020 means a better chance for success.  Watch for the arrival of Sam Delaplane (AA) in 2021.

Texas (#5).  A mirror of Seattle, though not quite as confusing.  Joe Palumbo (MLB/AAA), Brock Burke (MLB/AAA), Brady Feigi (AAA) and Emmanuel Clase (MLB/AA, skipped AAA) are the best in system ready to arrive and pitch in the blistering, wet heat of Texas in 2020.

Oakland (#7).  Sean Manaea (MLB/AAA) finally stays season long in Oakland.  Five quality pitchers rise from AA to AAA this coming year.  Of those five, perhaps James Kaprielian (AA/A+) gets a later shot in the Bigs.  Seth Martinez (A+) and Jesus Zambrano (A+) have a bright future.

Houston (#13 and, yes, the change you will probably dismiss).  Indeed.  The mighty of development begin to stumble.  At least with their pitching.  Nothing in 2019’s AAA and AA system is ready to offer help in Houston.  Await the two to three year arrival of Riley Cabral (A+), Humberto Castellanos (A) and Nivaldo Rodriguez (A).

LAA (#15):  Everyday development stumbled in at #13.  Pitching completes the organizational collapse.   Of their top ten, I could place only seven.  Starting pitching prospects are especially barren.

 

 

N.L. East:  A top, middle and bottom.

Washington (#2T).  Four potential future studs await.  Carter Kieboom (MLB/AAA), Jose Marmolejos (AAA), Taylor Gushue (AAA) and Andrew Stevenson (MLB/AAA).  All four should leave spring training bound for D.C.  Next in line is Alec Keller (AAA).

Miami (#6).  Yes, the Fish have improved.  2020 features the arrival of Austin Dean (MLB/AAA and best in system), Isan Diaz (MLB/AAA), Rossell Herrera (MLB/AAA) and Harold Ramirez (MLB/AAA).

Atlanta (#7).  Austin Riley (MLB/AAA and best in system) finds a permanent home in Atlanta in 2020.  Johan Carmago (MLB/AAA) may find company with Mr. Riley.  One to watch is Trey Harris (A+/A).

Philadelphia (#10).  A thin, brittle #10.  They slotted five of ten guys in their top-ten.  Unless you are hitting a baseball, 50% is awful.  And given the Phillies approach to hitting in the minors, hitting is rare.  Nick Williams (MLB/AAA) hangs around in 2020.

NYM:  And, the Mets.  Bringing up the rear.  The system rear that is dragging on the ground and making a crevice.  They had two guys in their top-ten.  Two.  The Mets are the poster child of how not to draft, sign and develop position players.  Congratulations.

N.L. Central:  Spotty at best, less the top two teams.

St. Louis (#2T).  Randy Arozarena (MLB/AAA/AA) is St. Louis bound in 2020.  He’s good.  Justin Williams (MLB/AAA) is almost as good.  Rangel Ravalo (MLB/AAA), Dylan Carlson (AAA/AA) and Tommy Edman (MLB/AAA) need a good spring to make the team, but 2020 will feature a St. Louis appearance at some point.

Cincinnati (#4).  A team learning how to develop everyday ball players.  Josh Van Meter (MLB/AAA and best in system) will be accompanied by a combination of the following in Cincinnati in 2020:  Aristides Aquino (MLB/AAA), Phil Ervin (MLB/AAA), Brian O’Grady (MLB/AAA) and/or Chadwick Tromp (AAA).  Lots of talent in AA will push in the near future.

Pittsburgh (#8).  A lot of talent in A+ and A ball.  Pirates fans be patient.  2020 features Bryan Reynolds (MLB/AAA) and Hunter Owen (AA) in Pittsburgh..

Milwaukee (#9T).  Trent Grisham (MLB/AAA and best in system ) and Keston Hiura (MLB/AAA) offer help in 2020.  Milwaukee gets thin quick.  Only one player each from A+ and A ball made the top-ten.  The last four spots are vacant.

Chicago (#9T).  Guess which spots are vacant?  See Milwaukee.  Maybe Clayton Daniel (AA/A, skipped A+ ball) arrives in 2020.  Maybe.

N.L. West:  Talent galore brewing and ready to pour into MLB.  Ready your glasses.

Arizona (#1).  Idelmaro Vargas (MLB/AAA) and Kevin Cron (MLB/AAA) begin 2020 in Phoenix.  Choose from the following to join them:  Yasmany Tomas (MLB/AAA), Domingo Leyba (MLB/AAA), Tim LoCastro (MLB/AAA), Jamie Westbrook (AAA) and Ben DeLuzio (AAA).  However, Dalton Varsho (AA) may push them all aside.

Colorado (#2T).  Four MLB/AAA players impress.  Yonathan Diaz, Brendan Rogers, Pat Valaika and Brian Mundell.  A short step behind are Elliot Soto (AAA) and Roberto Ramon (AAA).

San Diego (#2T).  Ty France (MLB/AAA) will find a position to play in San Diego in 2020.  Josh Naylor, Adeline Rodriguez and Rodrigo Orozco all had impressive 2019 AAA production.

San Francisco (#3).  Jaylin Davis (MLB/AAA) plays in S.F. in 2020.  Chris Shaw (MLB/AAA), Mauricio Dubon (MLB/AAA), Steven Dugar (MLB/AAA) and Mike Gerber (MLB/AAA) make 2020 spring training interesting.

Los Angeles (#5).  Yep, the “worst” development system in the West is #5.  Gavin Lux (MLB/AAA) likely sticks in L.A. from game 1 to game 162 in 2020.  Zach McKinstry (AAA), Conner Joe (MLB/AAA) and Kyle Garlick (MLB/AAA) wait for a chance in L.A.  Will Smith may soon be elsewhere given the substantial talent of Conner Wong (AA) and his 52% toss rate and ability to hit the baseball.

 

A.L. East:  Weak.  Can’t get out of bed weak.

Tampa (#8).  Immediate help is available led by Jake Cronenworth (AAA and the best everyday  position player in system).  Kean Wong (MLB/AAA), Mike Brousseau (MLB/AAA), Christian Arroyo (MLB/AAA) and Kevin Padlo (AAA) should all see time in the Bigs during 2020.  Watch Wander Franco (A+/A) as the next two years wander by (pun intended).

Toronto (#9).  Rowdy Tellez (MLB/AAA) should finally stick in Toronto in 2020.  Same with Cavan Biggio (MLB/AAA).  Next in line is Santiago Espinal (AAA).  Then a thinness develops

Baltimore (#10).  Given the lack of players in Baltimore (truly a bad baseball team), Mason Williams (MLB/AAA), Ryan Mountcastle (AAA) and Rylan Bannon (AAA) all get a chance to move to Baltimore at the end of spring training.

Boston (#11).  I rate the top-ten players for each team.  Boston’s developmental system stopped after #8.  Enough said.  Notable help at AAA does not exist.  Wait for the 2022 arrival of Marcus Wilson (A+ and best in system) and Jarren Duran (A+ and little to separate him from Mr. Wilson).

NYY (#13T).  The Yankees did not place a player in the last four of their top-ten.  Perhaps Ryan McBroom (MLB/AAA), Mike Ford (MLB/AAA) and/or Breyvic Valera (MLB/AAA) get a couple of weeks here and there to see the sights of NYC.

A.L. Central:  A big surprise awaits.  Your head may spin.

Detroit (#1).  Your head is spinning.  You cannot believe I or anybody would rate the Tigers #1 in anything except how-not-to-play-baseball-while-living-next-to-Lake-St.-Clair.  The Tigers’ system is loaded with ready help.  Jaime Candelario (MLB/AAA and best in system) will be followed by Ronny Rodriguez, Frank Schwindel, Victor Reyes, Dawei Lugo, Harold Castro, Willi Castro and perhaps Christian Stewart.  Less Mr. Stewart all enjoyed time in Detroit and AAA during 2019.  Additionally, Kade Scivique (AA) may be an ill advised early arrival in 2020, though the Tigers will be better served by waiting until 2021.  Mr. Scivique can hit and has toss rate of 37%.

Minnesota (#2).  Brief separation between the Twins and Tigers.  The following players split time between Minneapolis and Rochester:  Jake Cave, Ramon Flores, Williams Astudillo and Luis Arraez.  Mr. Arraez traveled quickly in 2019 beginning his journey in AA ball.  Luke Raley (AAA) will also be in the mix to receive a ticket to Minneapolis in 2020.

Kansas City (#5).  Yes, the billion dollar team (bat shit crazy money for the Royals) improved to #5 during 2019.  Nicky Lopez (MLB/AAA) is the best player in system.  Nick Dini (MLB/AAA) and Bubba Starling (MLB/AA, no AAA 2019 exposure) join Mr. Lopez in K.C. during 2020.

Cleveland (#8).  I choose Daniel Johnson (AAA) as most likely to help in 2020.  Most of the Indians talent is in A+ ball.

Chicago (#12).  No depth.  Especially in AA and A+ ball.  Ramon Torres (MLB/AAA) and Nick Madrigal (AAA/AA) are the only two position players to get a look during spring.  Yermin Mercedes (AAA) makes the team in 2020.  He can hit and had 2019 toss rates of 44% in AAA and 43% in AA.

A.L. West:  Better than the East, almost as good as the Central.

Texas (#2T).  Three guys to watch in 2020.  Nick Solak (MLB/AAA), Scott Heineman (MLB/AAA) and Ronald Guzman (MLB/AAA).  Hunter Cole (AAA), Andy Ibanez (AAA) and Willie Calhoun (MLB/AAA) are next in line.

Houston (#4).  I know Yordan Alvarez played and played well during the A.L. playoffs, but he spent considerable time in AAA in 2019, thus I include him in my ratings.  Abraham Toro (MLB/AAA/AA), Taylor Jones (AAA) and Josh Rojas (MLB/AAA) keep the Astros swimming in quality prospects.  Watch Seth Beer (AA/A+) and Lorenzo Quintana (AA) arrive in 2021.

Oakland (#6).  Mark Payton (MLB/AAA), Sean Murphy (MLB/AAA) and Sheldon Neuse (MLB/AAA) make the team 2020 spring training forward.  Accompanying them will be the impressive Jonah Helm (c) who threw out 54% of AAA runners and 51% of AA runners in 2019.  Plus, he hits.

Seattle (#7).  A lot of AA talent.  Yet, their best is Julio Rodriguez (A+/A).  Jake Fraley (AA), Donnie Walton (AA), Chris Mariscal (AA) and/or Evan White (AA) spend time in AAA to start 2020, then arrive in Seattle later in the season.

LAA (#13T).  What a mess.  The Angels placed six in their top-ten.  Need four more and a whole lot more in 2020.  I’m not convinced Jo Adell is savior in waiting.  Play a full year injury free in AAA, then we’ll talk.  However, I am convinced that both Jarred Walsh (MLB/AAA) and Taylor Ward (MLB/AAA) deserve a long look during spring training.

 

 

SDSU 13, BYU 3

Posted: December 2, 2019 in Uncategorized

Thank goodness.

Beating the Cougars is always sweet.  Always the best medicine.  Coming into the game at 8-3/5-3 and in bad need of a shower and shave, the Aztecs came through.

For the twelfth time this year, the Aztec defense wins the game.  Tariq Thompson was the  man among men.  One pick, one sack and one fumble recovery (yes, I’m separating the sack and fumble recovery into two occurrences).  Combine Mr. Thompson’s sack (10 yard loss) with Troy Cassidy’s sack for a total of a quarter of the football field in lost yardage for the guys from Utah.  The Cougar qb had a line of 32/54/2 for 338 yards.  All for 3 lousy points.  Their offense was on the field for 81 plays.  3 points.

Carson Baker, playing for the injured Ryan Agnew, posted an impressive first effort of 19/25 for 172 yards and zero interceptions.  Heady play for a redshirt freshman in his first performance as a college football quarterback.  Plus, Mr. Baker puts zip on the ball.  Just ask the 10 different Aztecs who caught at least one of his passes.

The 2019 “running game” is finally closing.  A bad Broadway play with seven customers in the stands with rotten tomatoes in hand.  97 poor yards.  Mostly to no real effect.  Between this game and the Hawai’i game, the SDSU running backs and o-line totaled 186 yards.  The Aztec running game used to generate 186 yards in the first half . . . of a single game.  Oh, yesteryear.

And, yeah, the punting guy, Heicklen was again on fire:  7 punts for 46 yards on average, 4 of which were inside the 20.  Yawn.

Await the bowl designation with glee.

9-3 (which is so much better than 8-4)/5-3.

Go, Aztecs.